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Federal court order allows Chicago lesbian couple to marry early

A federal court ruling means a Chicago couple will be allowed to marry before the state's same-sex marriage law takes effect.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin on Nov. 25 ordered the Cook County clerk to issue an expedited marriage license to Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert. Gray is terminally ill.

County Clerk David Orr, who has been an advocate of legalizing same-sex marriage in the state, said he'll comply with the order.

Illinois' gay marriage law takes effect June 1.

But the gay rights group Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed a lawsuit seeking immediate action for Gray and Ewert, who have been together for five years. After a first date that included a play at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, they have been inseparable.  

Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal says Gray, a pioneering advocate for equality in the city and state, wants to marry the woman she loves before she dies.

“Vernita is terminally ill and she wishes to marry the woman she loves before she dies—and now she won’t have to wait another day,” said Taylor. “These two women, who have loved and cared for each other in good times and bad, through sickness and through health, will get to know what it means to be married.”

Gray has cancer in her brain and bones. She was first diagnosed with cancer in 1996. 

In a statement, Gray said, “I have two cancers, bone and brain and I just had chemo today — I am so happy to get this news. I’m excited to be able to marry and take care of Pat, my partner and my family, should I pass.”

“The court recognized that Vernita and Pat should not be denied the freedom to marry simply because of the arbitrary nature of the start date of the new law,” added John Knight, LGBT Project Director at the ACLU of Illinois. “Their love deserves the dignity of marriage now and there is simply no justification for forcing them to wait.”

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