Gordy Hulten, the Republican County Clerk of Champaign County, Illinois, announced this morning that his office will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately, becoming the second Illinois county to do so. Via press release:
"On Friday, federal judge Sharon Johnson Coleman held that the Illinois statute banning marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional and violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The Illinois Attorney General and the Cook County Clerk were parties to the suit. The precise effect of the ruling on other Illinois counties is unclear. However, after consulting with State's Attorney Julia Rietz, I have come to the conclusion that the rationale of the case applies to all citizens of Illinois and that Champaign County residents should have no fewer Constitutional rights than those in Cook County. Furthermore, given the ruling, denying a license to a same sex couple would provide no benefit to the County and would likely result in litigation at taxpayer expense.
"Therefore, effective immediately, the Champaign County Clerk's office will issue marriage licenses to same sex applicants, in accordance with the 14th Amendment, and the Illinois and United States Constitutions."
Click here for information about obtaining a marriage license in Champaign County.
Click here for the address and office hours of the Champaign County Clerk's Office.
Equality Illinois applauded Hulten's decision, and Lambda Legal urged county clerks in the other 100 Illinois counties to follow suit. Their statements are after the jump.
"Clerk Hulten recognized both the humanity of helping gay and lesbian couples to fulfill their dreams and the legal soundness of following the decision of a federal court that denying marriage licenses was unconstitutional," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.
"It is simply time for the other county clerks to follow suit," Cherkasov added. "As we saw in the immediate rush to the Cook County Clerk's marriage bureau after Friday's ruling, gay and lesbian couples are eager and ready to take the step that not only grants them and their family the legal benefits and rights of marriage but also bestows society's recognition that their love is equal."
It is also significant that the licenses are now available in a Central Illinois county, which is within easy driving distance of not only Champaign-Urbana but also Peoria, Decatur, Springfield, Bloomington-Normal and Danville for couples and their families. "While we were thrilled with Friday's ruling that applied to Cook County, this is a major step that instantly spreads marriage equality to another major region of the state," Cherkasov said. "We are working with more county clerks to help them step up."
From an open letter to all Illinois county clerks:
"Lee v. Orr declared Illinois' ban on marriages of same-sex couples to be unconstitutional 'on its face.' When a court declares a statute to be facially unconstitutional, it has necessarily found that 'no set of circumstances exists under which the Act would be valid.'... Thus, it follows that the State's ban on marriages of same-sex couples, having been found to be facially unconstitutional in Cook County, must also be invalid in every other county in the State."
Read Lambda's full letter here.
UPDATE: Laura Meli and Marissa Meli, a pair of third-year law students, were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license at the Champaign County Clerk's Office today.
Photo by John Dixon of the News-Gazette.
Congratulations to the happy couple, and all the couples who received marriage licenses in Champaign County today!!