A federal judge today ordered the clerk of Cook County, Illinois -- the state's most populous county -- to immediately grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Because the Illinois marriage equality law passed during a special veto session last November, it couldn't take effect until June 1, 2014. But U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled that this waiting period is unconstitutional.
"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.
The case is a class-action lawsuit against the Cook County Clerk's Office filed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU on behalf of all same-sex couples seeking to marry there. The two groups also filed an emergency motion asking the court to compel the issuance of marriage licenses to Illinois same-sex couples facing terminal illness.
Today's ruling, while limited to Cook County, is effective immediately, meaning that any same-sex couple in Illinois eligible to marry can now receive a legal marriage license in Cook County. Clerk David Orr told the Chicago Sun-Times that his downtown Chicago office will begin issuing marriage licenses without delay and will stay open until 7 p.m. tonight to accommodate the expected surge.
Couples can get married as soon as tomorrow; suburban offices will begin issuing marriage licenses on Monday.
Orr hailed the development as "a day that's been a long time coming," a sentiment echoed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU.
"We're thrilled that Judge Coleman recognized the serious harm to the many Illinois families from continuing to deny them the freedom to marry," said John Knight, LGBT and AIDS Project director for the ACLU of Illinois. "The U.S. Constitution guarantees these families the personal and emotional benefits as well as the critical legal protections of marriage now, and we are thankful that the court extended this dignity to couples immediately."
Christopher Clark, Counsel for Lambda Legal, added:
"The wait is over! We are thrilled that the court recognized the unfairness of forcing same-sex couples to wait for months to marry. Justice has prevailed and full equality is no longer delayed for Illinoisans who wish to marry in Cook County before June 1st."
Congratulations to the happy couples. Let the wedding bells ring!
Judge Coleman's ruling is after the jump, via Equality Case Files.