Illinois's new gay marriage law doesn't go into effect until June, but some same-sex couples in the state won't have to wait that long. Thanks to U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman's decision, couples where at least one partner has a terminal illness will no longer have to get a judge's order in order to wed early, starting on Monday.
The decision, as the Associated Press explains, is an expansion on a previous decision allowing Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert to marry. They did so earlier this month, the first gay marriage in the state. Gray has terminal cancer, and is unlikely to live until the official start of the state's new law. Coleman issued an opinion to expand that option to all gay couples, provided they have a doctor's note confirming that at least one parter is terminally ill. That order was finalized on Monday. Here's what Coleman wrote:
"This Court can conceive of no reason why the public interest would be disserved by allowing a few couples facing terminal illness to wed a few months earlier than the timeline would currently allow."
Coleman cited both the practical and emotional benefits of allowing couples to marry early. As of now, the order only pertains to Cook County, but any eligible couple living in the state may obtain an early license there. Several other couples have already obtained marriage licenses through the courts, but today's decision will expedite any future requests from couples in the state.
Illinois became the 16th state to legalize gay marriage in November, about a year after Gov. Pat Quinn announced his support for marriage equality.