Chicago women marry in Illinois’ first same-sex marriage
BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporter November 27, 2013 4:19PM
Updated: December 30, 2013 12:06PM
A woman with terminal cancer and her longtime partner were married in a private ceremony in their Chicago home Wednesday, marking the first legal same-sex marriage in Illinois.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin on Monday ordered Cook County Clerk David Orr to issue a marriage license so Vernita Gray, 64, could marry Patricia Ewert, 65.
The couple had filed a lawsuit on Friday, arguing that they should be allowed to marry early because of Gray’s poor health.
On Wednesday afternoon, two days after being hand-delivered a marriage license by the Cook County clerk’s office, the two were married in their home by Illinois Judge Patricia Logue, Lambda Legal confirmed.
The two couldn’t hide their excitement while Gray held up their marriage license in front of friends at their home Wednesday. Ewert, wearing a leopard print coat, held up a bouquet of white flowers as Gray showed off the legal document that made history. “I’m so excited for us and for the community, for today is a beginning. One so richly deserved,” Gray said after the ceremony, according to Lambda Legal.
Gray has inoperable brain tumors and breast cancer that has spread to her bones. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996.
Gray and Ewert were one of the first gay couples to join in civil union when the practice became law in 2011.
Gray is a member of the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. According to a profile on the group’s website, Gray was an early leader in Chicago’s gay-liberation movement. She organized a gay and lesbian hotline in 1969 and hosted support groups.
Their legal challenge may fuel efforts to change the effective date of the law, which Gov. Pat Quinn signed last week. There’s legislation pending to allow the law to take effect immediately and it could come up in late January when lawmakers gather in Springfield.
Quinn, who helped Illinois legalize civil unions in 2011, said if lawmakers sent him that bill he’d sign it.
“Every day is crucial for same-sex couples like Vernita and Pat, who may not be able to and shouldn’t have to wait until next summer to get married,” said Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal.
“We’re thankful for the swift action by the court and the Cook County Clerk’s office to allow this to happen as soon as possible, and we’re beyond thrilled for Vernita and Pat, who are now able to say, ‘We’re married.’”