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Federal judge rules gay Cook County couples can marry now

Friday, Feb 21, 2014

* AP

Same-sex couples in Illinois’ largest county can begin applying for marriage licenses immediately, according to a federal judge’s ruling Friday that some attorneys said could give county clerks across the state reason to also issue marriage certificates right away.

Illinois has legalized same-sex marriage, but the new law doesn’t take effect until June 1. However, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled Friday that same-sex marriages can begin in Cook County, where Chicago is located.

“There is no reason to delay further when no opposition has been presented to this Court and committed gay and lesbian couples have already suffered from the denial of their fundamental right to marry,” she wrote in the order.

The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed against Cook County Clerk David Orr, who supports gay marriage. Coleman already ruled in December that same-sex couples did not have to wait until June to marry if one or both partners has a life-threatening illness. Several same-sex couples married after that ruling.

The ruling is here.

* The Tribune has Cook County Clerk David Orr’s plan

Orr said he will keep the downtown Bureau of Vital Records, in the lower level of the Daley Center, open an extra two hours tonight – until 7 p.m. – to accommodate any couples who want to get a license after work.

Only the downtown office will issue same-sex marriage licenses on Friday. All offices will begin issuing licenses on Monday, he said.

Marriage licenses are valid for 60 days. “Don’t rush to get your license if you have a summer wedding planned because you don’t want the license to expire before your big day,” Orr said.

The $60 license fee will be waived for any couple who already has an Illinois civil union license. Couples who wish to convert their prior civil union date to a marriage will have to wait until June 1 because it was not addressed in Coleman’s order, Orr said.

* From Governor Pat Quinn…

“Many couples in Illinois have waited long enough for marriage equality, and today’s ruling means thousands of Illinois couples no longer have to wait.

“Our law is a victory for equal rights in America, and shows that citizens and lawmakers can come together on issues of fairness and human rights.

“I applaud U.S. District Court Judge Sharon J. Coleman for her stance in recognizing that ‘there is no reason to delay further’ giving all couples the right to marry in Cook County.

“Every county across the state should enjoy the same freedom without having to wait until June.”

Governor Quinn pushed for marriage equality throughout the 2013 legislative session. In 2011, the Governor signed into law historic civil union legislation. Since then, more than 6,000 couples from across Illinois have joined in a civil union. Prior to the Governor’s efforts, same-sex couples in Illinois had been denied many rights enjoyed by couples who are married.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Madame Defarge - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:06 pm:

    I support SSM, but this is terrible. It would be one thing if the Judge found a constitutional right to marry—OK.But to just strike the effective date of a state law is a very bad precedent.

  2. - MrJM - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:11 pm:

    “My traditional marriage! It’s melting! Melting! Mellllllllltingggggggg…”

    – MrJM

  3. - OneMan - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:17 pm:

    Out of curiosity, is the effective date set in part by the state Constitution?

  4. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:18 pm:

    Curious that none of the anti-marriage groups or legislators sought standing on this.

    The judge ruled that the ban on gay marriage violates the 14th Amendment “on its face.” That would seem to be grist for court cases elsewhere in the country.

  5. - Mark - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:18 pm:

    To Mme. D:

    Since the ruling holds that “this Court finds that the marriage ban for same-sex couples violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause on its face,” I suppose it’s OK by your standards.

  6. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:19 pm:

    – It would be one thing if the Judge found a constitutional right to marry—-

    Read the decision. That’s exactly what she did.

  7. - Wensicia - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:20 pm:


    I suggest you move to Alabama straight away.

    How long before a federal judge extends this statewide?

  8. - I can't believe Canada beat us - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:21 pm:

    Without having read the ruling, I suspect the judge did NOT move up the effective date of the new law. Rather, he struck down the existing (i.e., the old) law. A subtle but huge difference.

  9. - I can't believe Canada beat us - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:24 pm:

    Wordslinger- “sought standing” for what purpose? To spend money on legal fees fighting something that will unquestionably happen in a few months anyway? There’s no point.

  10. - Archiesmom - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:27 pm:

    Nope, ICBCBU, it’s moving up the date of the law. I, as a lawyer, am scratching my head. Don ‘t know how you do it. I’m all for earlier implematation, but don’t see how she gets there.

  11. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:29 pm:

    –Wordslinger- “sought standing” for what purpose?–

    To seek to avoid another ruling by a federal judge that state bans on gay marriage are a violation of the 14th Amendment.

    There are a number of state constitutions that ban gay marriage. The federal Constitution trumps state constitutions every time. Here’s another federal judge chiming in on a nationwide battle that is going on in the courts all over the country.

  12. - 47th Ward - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:32 pm:

    ===To spend money on legal fees fighting something that will unquestionably happen in a few months anyway?===

    To spend other people’s money first. Next, to use this to raise more money from other people. That’s the standard MO of many groups that oppose SSM.

    The point is, clever people can make a lot of money off of this battle.

  13. - hisgirlfriday - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:39 pm:

    Not a surprising court ruling when even judges in places like Utah and Oklahoma are finding bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

    I have to say though I found it dumb when there was the carve-out of the sped up marriage access to terminal illness patients and I think its dumb to carve out special earlier marriage access via one Illinois county.

    If banning same-sex marriage today is an equal protection or due process violation to someone with cancer or in Chicago, it’s a violation today for a healthy person who seeks a marriage license in Downstate Illinois too.

    I understand the desire to be cautious and not get ahead of the politics, but there is something sort of mealymouthed about these rulings that don’t put a flag down and settle things once and for all, which I believe is actually something that Scalia lamented in his Windsor dissent.

  14. - OneMan - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:42 pm:

    Ok, more confusion. If the judge ruled the current law unconstitutional then why does this only impact Cook County? Why not at least a federal circuit?

  15. - Madame Defarge - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:43 pm:

    Mark, You are correct. That’s what I get for relying on Press reports to explain Court decisions!

  16. - I can't believe Canada beat us - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:48 pm:

    Archiesmom, I am also a lawyer and I believe you are incorrect. Read the first full paragraph on page 2. The relief requested is a declaration that the current statute is unconstitutional. The judge merely barred enforcement of the current statute, and did nothing with the new one.

  17. - Archiesmom - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:51 pm:

    One Man, this particular suit as filed only applied to marriages sought in Cook County, so it stayed within that scope. The larger question was not before this judge.

  18. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:53 pm:

    “My traditional marriage! It’s melting! Melting! Mellllllllltingggggggg…”

    I also chose to become gay lately. With all this marriage equality breaking out, I figured finally, I can become gay. It’s a lifestyle choice.

  19. - OneMan - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:53 pm:



  20. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:53 pm:

    –Ok, more confusion. If the judge ruled the current law unconstitutional then why does this only impact Cook County? –

    It’s a short decision. All answers to it lie therein.

  21. - Archiesmom - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    ICBCBU, you ‘ll teach me to read the opinion, not the news article before opining. Which I usually do…

  22. - Jim'e' - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 1:59 pm:

    Interesting; I wonder how, if at all, these court decisions (IL, OK, UT) will help the Gov of Arizona determine if she should sign the AZ recenlty passed “religious freedom” law which is to allow those with religious objections to gay marriage to not “cater” to gay marriages.

  23. - countyline - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 2:22 pm:

    I guess public officials can just pick and choose which laws they have to follow now…with the example being set by the White House, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

  24. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 2:30 pm:

    –I guess public officials can just pick and choose which laws they have to follow now…with the example being set by the White House, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.–

    It’s a federal judge ruling on the Constitutionality of a state law.

    They can do that, can’t they, in your world? Seems to me, it’s been happening since Jump Street.

    I’m guessing you were cool when the 7th Circuit struck down Illinois’ blanket prohibition of carrying firearms outside the home. Am I wrong?

  25. - Where is Joe Kotlarz? - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 2:54 pm:

    Can this judge also expedite the issuance of concealed carry permits?

  26. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 2:56 pm:

    @Jim’e’ - that’s a good question. It will be interesting to see how this larger discussion plays out, as it raises a number of fascinating questions concerning the line between religious beliefs and public standards.

    Can a Baptist or Coptic baker refuse to sell a “gay” wedding cake?

    Can a Muslim cashier refuse to ring up and sell alcohol or pork?

    Can a Zoroastrian employee refuse to abide by Disney’s dress code if it requires them to remove their head covering?

    Can the Orthodox Jewish owner of a religious books and supply store decline to provide abortion coverage in health insurance?

    Can some employees or students leave in the middle of a job or class to pray?

  27. - Jaded - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 3:17 pm:

    Since the Illinois Law is unconstitutional, I guess it follows that refusing to cater a gay wedding is no longer a violation of the Illinois Human Rights act. I guess that means the complaint against the Mr. Walder and Timber Creek should be dismissed by the Illinois Human Rights Commission. Right?

  28. - Federalist - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 3:19 pm:

    It’s legal, let the law proceed.

  29. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 3:20 pm:

    Wensicia–It’s called sarcasm. Unless MrJM has had his identity borrowed, or has a brain tumor.

  30. - Norseman - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 3:25 pm:

    OneMan, I don’t see that anyone answered your question about effective dates. The constitution has a provision outlining the parameters for effective dates. The quick and dirty it discusses the effective date when a bill doesn’t have an effective date enumerated. The date depends on when the bill passes. It also includes vote requirements if the bill does state an effective date depending on when it passes. In this case, I believe the bill excluded an effective date so it took effect in the constitutionally prescribed date for a bill passed after May 31, I. E. June 1 next year.

    Dillard and a former Senate GOP staffer had a good article on the matter.

  31. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 3:26 pm:

    Yes Jaded, that’s how it work. If one state law is declared unconstitutional, all state laws are unconstitutional.

    Get some game, man.

    If you have a Constitutional beef, take it before a federal judge. That’s how it’s worked since about 1789 or so. You’re not a victim, cousin.

  32. - Louis G. Atsaves - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 3:34 pm:

    So the Equal Protection clause of the constitution calls for the striking of the old state law banning gay or same sex marriages. It applies only to Cook County, Illinois, creating a situation where the law can now be unequally applied in the rest of the 100 or so counties of Illinois.


    To those who litigated this matter, to the Attorney General and Cook County Clerk who joined with the plaintiffs, and to the ruling Federal Judge who quoted from Martin Luther King instead of any real case law on the subject matter before her, do we give thanks to you for “straightening” this all out?

    In three months or so, it won’t really matter much anyway.

  33. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 3:45 pm:

    In your dreams Jaded.

  34. - Wensicia - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 4:11 pm:

    ==Wensicia–It’s called sarcasm.==

    I’m well aware of that and my reply was in the same vein. MrJM and I are well acquainted on other media sites and I appreciate his fine sense of humor.

    I suppose I should have picked Kansas, not Alabama, keeping with his “Wizard of Oz” theme.

  35. - Will - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 4:27 pm:

    While I support the ruling, I’m not sure I like our Governor agreeing that “there is no reason to delay” when the reason for the delay was the IL Constitution. He (and the AG) did take an oath to support the IL Constitution. Maybe I’m a traditionalist, but this with Quinn’s reading of the pension clause is troubling in the fact that the basis for our state government appears to be selectively disregarded by our state wide office holders.

  36. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 4:31 pm:

    This is great news for the couples who can be married and complete their families.

    Separately, we still have the massive and unresolved issue of individuals undermining the legislative and executive branches by declining to do their jobs.

    Righties should be concerned about the recent actions of David Orr, Anita Alvarez and Lisa Madigan declining to defend state marriage laws.

    Lefties should be concerned about the recent actions of Tom Gibbons, Jeremy Walker and Ron Dozier declining to defend state concealed carry laws.

    And everyone should be concerned about the precedent being set by specific individuals, especially individuals sworn to uphold the law, taking the law into their own hands.

    Both of these examples are issues involving deep passions and basic “rights”. Such times are when it is most important to uphold the legitimate process and rule of law rather than the rule of politics or personal whim.

    Gay marriage and concealed carry are already well on their way. Doing your job as a State’s Attorney or public official in the meantime does not harm the progress being made on these issues - if anything, it only adds legitimacy to their ultimate arrival.

    In the gay marriage cases, for example, presenting a defense would have been unlikely to change the way the judges ruled. But it would have immediately added a layer of legitimacy in the public eye and deprived opponents from claiming the verdicts were a product of gamesmanship rather than justice.

  37. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 21, 14 @ 4:51 pm:

    –Lefties should be concerned about the recent actions of Tom Gibbons, Jeremy Walker and Ron Dozier declining to defend state concealed carry laws.–

    I don’t consider myself a “leftie,” but that news is years’ old.

    If an Illinois SA or sheriff wants to let folks carry firearms in the public square outside the law and take the discretion as to what is legal or not, the folks in those counties can deal with that. And the public liability, too.

    Remember, the 7th Circuit ruled the Illinois prohibition on any carry unconstitutional. They didn’t set the law on what was acceptable.

    Where I live in Cook County, if a federal judge rules the state ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, I’ll deal with that, too. No skin off my nose. No risk, either.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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