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Third Illinois county plans to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples

Thursday, February 27, 2014
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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — McLean County, Ill., Clerk Kathy Michael says she hopes to be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples by the middle of next week, months ahead of the June 1 date when Illinoismarriage equality law is scheduled to take effect.

John Dixon, APMarissa Meli, left, and Laura Meli were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license at the Champaign County Clerk's office in Urbana, Ill., on Wednesday Feb. 26, 2014.

John Dixon, AP
Marissa Meli, left, and Laura Meli were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license at the Champaign County Clerk’s office in Urbana, Ill., on Wednesday Feb. 26, 2014.

The decision would make McLean the third county, and largest geographically in the state, to do so after a federal judge ruled same-sex couples in Cook County did not have to wait until the law takes effect this summer.

“It’s legal, if there’s an illness, to be granted a marriage license of same-sex, now,” Michael, a Republican, told WGLT Public Radio. “Why would it be delayed till June First, when there are exceptions that are already being made?”

Cook County Clerk David Orr began issuing licenses following a Feb. 21 ruling that stemmed from a lawsuit that applied only to Cook County, which includes Chicago. However, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman also said the state’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional, which legal experts said other counties could use as a reason to issue marriage licenses right away.

On Wednesday, Champaign County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but officials in a number of other counties have said they’ll wait until June 1.

More than half a dozen counties in central Illinois — Sangamon, Logan, Cass, Morgan, Macoupin, Montgomery and Christian — said they’d comply with the new law as written, reported the (Springfield) State Journal-Register.

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But the state’s top leaders, including Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed the same-sex marriage legislation late last year, said they hoped more counties follow suit.

Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, a statewide LGBT rights organization, said his group is working with LaSalle County to become the fourth in Illinois to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Illinois’ first same-sex couple to wed — Vernita Gray and her partner of five years, Patricia Ewert — did so in late November. An expedited license was granted because Gray was terminally ill with cancer. Several other gay couples have been able to wed early for the same reason, both with expedited licenses and an earlier ruling from Coleman in December.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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