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Federal judge rules more can marry despite state constitutional deadline

Monday, Dec 16, 2013

* A federal judge has issued a new ruling in the same sex marriage debate

U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin last month ordered Cook County Clerk David Orr to issue a marriage license to Patricia Ewert and Vernita Gray, who is battling terminal cancer. The couple’s lawyer argued that they deserved the license because Gray’s prognosis means she may not survive to marry when the law goes into effect. Orr, who supports same sex marriage, opted not to defend his office against the suit.

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman issued a ruling that will allow all same-sex couples facing life-threatening illness to apply for marriage licenses before the law kicks in on June 1, 2014. As part of the lawsuit, two couples — Elvie Jordan and Challis Gibbs, and Ronald Dorfman and Ken Ilio — were specifically granted license applications. Dorfman has been diagnosed with a heart condition, and Gibbs has cancer. The ruling creates a legal “subclass” of couples, who have an “urgent need” to marry before the effective date.

“Given the Illinois General Assembly’s enactment of Senate Bill 10, any erroneous decision here would only result in allowing a relatively few people to marry a short period of time sooner,” Johnson Coleman wrote in her ruling. “The harm to the putative subclass of medically critical plaintiffs, on the other hand, would be far weightier since a denial of relief could effectively deny them the right to marry at all if one member of the couple passes away before June 1, 2014.” Couples in the state seeking to marry immediately because one or both have a life-threatening illness must get a recommendation from a doctor. Couples must have a doctor complete this certification form, available on the Cook County clerk’s website. Once couples get a certification, they can continue through the standard process of obtaining a marriage license.

* From a press release

“When you have a terminal illness, every day is significant. Even though we know the freedom to marry is coming to Illinois, the default implementation date of the new law is too far away for these couples,” said Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal. “While no one should be told that they cannot marry for a period of months, for couples who are dealing with a life-threatening medical condition, the delay in implementing Illinois’ marriage law could turn out to be an absolute bar to being married at all. We thank the Court and the clerk’s office for their swift response to ensure that Illinois couples who are struggling with the challenges of a life-threatening illness will have a chance to be married.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - A guy... - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 2:35 pm:

    Well reasoned, logical, compassionate. It’s just a little bit of priority seating for people who really need it.

  2. - Aldyth - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 2:43 pm:

    I’m so glad to see that doing the right thing has taken priority here.

  3. - Thomas - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 3:00 pm:

    More fuel on the fire for Paul Caprio? The fed judge who handed down the original decision is Jim Durkin’s brother.

  4. - wordslinger - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 3:11 pm:

    This is why you have judges, and allow them to exercise their judgement.

  5. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 3:14 pm:

    Good for this judge.

  6. - Ghost - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 3:15 pm:

    does this officialy mean the exorcism didnt work? where is brit hume we need an illustration…..

  7. - LincolnLounger - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 3:18 pm:

    I’m very much in favor of same sex marriage; however, I thought Durkin’s ruling was flawed from the beginning. The idea that there should be exceptions on the basis of health strikes me as fundamentally wrong. Either throw the whole law out or don’t.

  8. - Ghost - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 3:20 pm:

    Lincoln that actually goes against the principal instruction to judges, they are to first decide if there is an interpretation of the law that exisists such that you do not need to address its constitutionality; whicfh should be adressed only as a last resort.

  9. - Allen Skillicorn - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 3:28 pm:

    I wonder how this judge would have ruled if she heard Mary Shepard’s case asking for an immeadiate carry permit. Double standard?

    What if IL’s financial crisis required enacting SB1 early? Another double standard?

  10. - RonOglesby - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 3:29 pm:

    I am ok w/ SSM but either the law, or the constitution mean things or they don’t. For those that believe the wording in the Illinois Constitution means something when it comes to pensions I would assume you believe the wording when it comes to this mean something also?

    Rule of law, not of man.

  11. - Ghost - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 3:32 pm:

    Allen, not a double standard. The CC law was not available to anyone who pays a fee, there are various requirments that have to be met.

    as to enacting all of SB1 early, the judge didnt enact the law early and say everyone could get a license, so still not a comporable.

  12. - Anonymous - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 3:40 pm:

    I am actually not so much opposed to the judge’s ruling since it is not out of the ordinary for judges to be petitioned to grant marriage licenses to couples where the law would otherwise impose a temporary timeline related restriction.

    What is objectionable is Lambda Legal’s press release that begins with a broad categorical statement of the type that opponents of SSM argued without avail. Occasionally, SSM proponents give themselves away in that they want the law to be whatever they feel at the moment or some actually want no marital laws at all.

  13. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 3:44 pm:

    So it’s okay for these people to not be able to be the legal next of kin for their ailing partners.

    That’s pretty heartless.

  14. - Timmeh - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 4:00 pm:

    “Occasionally, SSM proponents give themselves away in that they want the law to be whatever they feel at the moment or some actually want no marital laws at all.”

    What do you mean by “whatever they feel at the moment”? They were pushing for gay marriage legalization immediately. They got gay marriage legalization starting June 1st.

  15. - Demoralized - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 4:22 pm:

    ==Rule of law, not of man.==

    Not everything in the world is as black and white as some would like them to be. Things aren’t always and either/or proposition.

    I have no problems with this ruling at all.

  16. - Anonymous - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 4:26 pm:

    I have great difficulty in understanding how a federal judge has the legal authority to make this ruling. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. The decision is compassionate, but judicial decisions are supposed to be principled.

  17. - Jim'e' - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 4:41 pm:

    Anonymous, I’m no expert on legal matters, but did not SCOUS rule DOMA to be unconstitutional; thus paving the way for anyone to file a lawsuit. In this case all it took was for someone to file a suit and for a judge to agree to put it on their docket

  18. - Sunshine - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 4:56 pm:

    Common sense has prevailed, as did compassion. A reasonable judgment given the circumstances.

  19. - wordslinger - Monday, Dec 16, 13 @ 6:45 pm:

    –I have great difficulty in understanding how a federal judge has the legal authority to make this ruling. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.–

    ==“Given the Illinois General Assembly’s enactment of Senate Bill 10, any erroneous decision here would only result in allowing a relatively few people to marry a short period of time sooner,” Johnson Coleman wrote in her ruling. “The harm to the putative subclass of medically critical plaintiffs, on the other hand, would be far weightier since a denial of relief could effectively deny them the right to marry at all if one member of the couple passes away before June 1, 2014.”–

    That seems pretty clear to me. It’s almost like a judge considered all the elements of the issue at hand.

    In the spirit of the season, if anyone, such as the Illinois Family Institute or Sen. Dillard wishes to go before a federal judge and establish standing and demonstrate how they’ve been harmed by this ruling….

    …I triple dog-dare them.

    The argument that gay marriage would bring harm to society or families was always cynical and contemptible.

    If those who howled for so long to stick their noses in other people’s business really believed that junk, they should be filing emergency injunctions in the morning.

  20. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 12:01 am:

    I personally favor same sex marriage. The situation of the individuals involved is tragic. They should be permitted to marry. But every wrong doesn’t (or shouldn’t) have a federal court remedy.

    One of the requirements for granting an injunction is likelihood of success on the merits. Judge Coleman Johnson’s analysis of that issue is subject to question.

    The Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor did not strike down state laws on same sex marriage. Instead, it struck down DOMA because DOMA infringed on the State’s ability to define marriage — and the federal government had no justification for doing so. Windsor clearly did not say that states must recognize same sex marriage, but that is essentially what this case has held.

    Nobody will appeal this ruling. And nobody should. But you don’t have to be anti-SSM or a crazy right-winger to think that decisions of courts should be principled, and that judges ought to follow the rule of law.

  21. - Juvenal - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 2:25 am:

    Wordslinger -

    Dillard’s bursitis flares up every time gay wedding bells ring, dontchya know?

  22. - Anon - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 8:16 am:

    For those of you that support the decisions in these cases, I’d like to know where you draw the line in defining “harm to the putative subclass of medically critical plaintiffs?”

    How many more laws should be bent because someone is critically ill?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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