America

Illinois Judge Allows Same-Sex Couple To Wed Before Law Takes Effect

Vernita Gray (left) and her partner Patricia Ewert had a civil union in Chicago's Millennium Park in June 2011. A judge ruled Monday that they should be allowed to legally marry now because of Gray's health. i i

Vernita Gray (left) and her partner Patricia Ewert had a civil union in Chicago's Millennium Park in June 2011. A judge ruled Monday that they should be allowed to legally marry now because of Gray's health. Timmy Samuel/Lambda Legal hide caption

itoggle caption Timmy Samuel/Lambda Legal
Vernita Gray (left) and her partner Patricia Ewert had a civil union in Chicago's Millennium Park in June 2011. A judge ruled Monday that they should be allowed to legally marry now because of Gray's health.

Vernita Gray (left) and her partner Patricia Ewert had a civil union in Chicago's Millennium Park in June 2011. A judge ruled Monday that they should be allowed to legally marry now because of Gray's health.

Timmy Samuel/Lambda Legal

Seven months before Illinois' same-sex marriage law goes into effect, a judge ruled Monday that two Chicago women can marry immediately because one of them has terminal cancer.

Vernita Gray, 64, and Patricia Ewert, 65, got engaged in 2009 and entered into a civil union in 2011. Gray has terminal breast cancer that recently spread to her brain and may have days or weeks to live, according to a court filing. Ewert is a breast cancer survivor.

Although Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law last week allowing same-sex marriage in Illinois, it will not go into effect until June.

"Unfortunately, that may be too late for a loving couple who has already been denied justice for too long," Cook County Clerk David Orr said in a statement following the judge's ruling. Orr, a proponent of same-sex marriage, said he would comply with the judge's orders and expedite the marriage license.

Gray & Ewert Court Documents

Attorney Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal, the organization that represented the women in court, tells NPR that the goal of the case was primarily to grant relief for the couple, but that the outcome could set an example for couples in similar situations.

Being legally married also would provide financial protection for Ewert in the event of Gray's death.

"This has been an amazingly wonderful surprise and we are thrilled beyond belief," Ewert told the Chicago Tribune. "The judge was an amazing human being who understands our struggle. I'm surprised, happy, delighted."

Gray and Ewert have not yet disclosed when they are getting married, but the Tribune reports that they're expected to wed this week.

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