When the Illinois state legislature passed its marriage equality measure last fall, marriages weren’t allowed to begin until June 2014. Now a federal judge says marriages should start immediately, at least for Cook County, which includes Chicago. By Friday afternoon, couples were lining up in the county clerk’s office to get marriage licenses and to get hitched.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said that “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.” Her ruling applies only to Cook County because the lawsuit seeking to accelerate the marriage timeline was filed against the Cook County clerk, who was not contesting the suit.
However, the ruling is likely to open the floodgate in other Illinois counties. as clerks take advantage of the opportunity to bypass the legislature’s artificial start date. Coleman had already ruled last December that same-sex couples in which one partner was facing a terminal illness could get married immediately. Several couples did so after that ruling. Her latest ruling simply extends that right to everyone in the state’s most populous county.
Couples immediately lined up at the Cook County clerk’s downtown office, which stayed open late to issue marriage licenses. The licenses require a one-day waiting period before a wedding can take place.
Needless to say, conservatives were incensed by the ruling. David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, complained that the judge was circumventing the legislature, which he already disagreed with. Smith clearly needs a lesson on when it’s time to throw in the towel.