Same-sex couples facing life-threatening illness will be able to get married before Illinois’ gay marriage law takes effect in June, a federal judge ruled today.
And they can start applying for marriage licenses today, according to a spokesperson Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office who noted that these couples will have to submit a form signed by their physician, along with the required application in order to obtain a marriage license.
“It’s a great day for people who need to marry now,” attorney John Knight said after today’s brief hearing.
Knight, the director of the LGBT and AIDS Project for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois, was one of six attorneys who appeared before U.S. District Judge Sharon J. Coleman today on behalf of the plaintiffs.
Coleman’s ruling comes in a class action lawsuit brought by four same-sex couples on Dec. 6 in Chicago’s federal court. They filed the suit against Orr in his capacity as county clerk on behalf of themselves, as well as a proposed class and sub-class.
These couples -- Brenda Lee and Lee Edwards, Patricia Tucker and Ingrid Swenson, Elvie G. Jordan and Challis Luann Gibbs, Ronald Dorfman and Kenneth Y. Ilio -- argue that having to wait to wed until the state's gay marriage law, which the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn approved last month, takes effect on June 1, 2014 violates their due process and equal protection rights.
All of the plaintiffs requested a permanent injunction to prevent the enforcement of current statutes banning gay marriage and four of the plaintiffs–Jordan, Gibbs, Dorman and Ilio—sought a temporary restraining order to allow same-sex couples in which one partner is facing a life-threatening illness to get married before June.
Gibbs, who entered into a civil union with Jordan after 20 years together, was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and Dorfman, who has been with Ilio for more than two decades, has congestive heart failure, according to their attorneys.
After hearing arguments last week, Coleman temporarily restrained Orr from enforcing state statues preventing same-sex couples from getting married in Illinois as applied to Jordan, Gibbs, Dorman and Ilio and ordered him to issue them marriage licenses.
And today, Coleman granted the plaintiffs' motions to create the class and sub-class proposed in the suit.
Attorneys from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, which represents Orr in the matter, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan office, which intervened in the suit shortly after it was filed, said they had no objections to the requests and that their offices support certification.
Coleman also approved an agreement submitted by the parties over how Orr’s office would implement the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in which one person is facing a life-threatening illness.
Mark Beem, an attorney at Miller Shakman & Beem LLP in Chicago who serves on the plaintiffs’ legal team, told Coleman that he anticipates filing a motion for summary judgment sometime before Christmas.
Assistant Attorney General Richard Huszagh said although Madigan’s office supports the plaintiffs’ requested relief, it wanted some time to file its response. Coleman gave attorneys for Orr and Madigan until Jan. 9 to file responses or supplemental briefs.
She also set a Jan. 16 deadline for the plaintiffs to submit a reply. Beem said he’s not sure if they will do so, but will notify the court if they choose not to file a reply brief.
After today’s hearing, Camilla Taylor, director of Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project and another member of the plaintiffs’ legal team, said although today’s ruling was “bittersweet” given the serious medical illnesses of some of the plaintiffs, she was pleased relief was granted.
Taylor said the exact number of couples who will be able to obtain marriage licenses under today’s ruling is unknown, but expects that it could be in the hundreds. The plaintiffs’ suit estimates that the proposed class could include thousands of couples, hundreds of whom would fall under the sub-class.
Jordan Heinz, an attorney Kirkland & Ellis LLP who also represents the plaintiffs, said his involvement in the case marks the “highlight of my career.”
As a member of the LGBT community and the person who was able to share the news about Coleman's ruling last week to some of the plaintiff couples, Heinz said this is a case he will “remember for the rest of my life.”
The plaintiffs’ legal team is comprised of about dozen attorneys from Lambda Legal, the ACLU, Miller Shakman & Beem and Kirkland & Ellis.
The form that same-sex couples facing life-threatening illness need to submit to get a marriage license under today's ruling has already been posted to cookcountyclerk.org. It can be found under the “Vital Records” tab by clicking on the “Marriage Equality” link.