Months before a new state law allowing gay marriage takes effect, Cook County Clerk David Orr announced Monday his office will begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples when one or both partners suffer from a life-threatening illness.
The move would pave the way for these couples to marry before Illinois' marriage equality act takes effect on June 1, 2014.
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Orr's announcement comes on the heels of Monday's federal court decision ordering the clerk's office to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples where one partner may not survive until June.
The decision was "aimed at simplifying the process for couples facing these dire circumstances," said Orr spokeswoman Courtney Greve.
Illinois last month became the 16th state to legalize gay marriage.
To receive an expedited license, same-sex couples must provide a physician's certification form indicating that one or both partners may not live until June, Greve said.
Chicagoan Vernita Gray, who is terminally ill with cancer, wed Patricia Ewert, her partner of five years, on Nov. 27 after a federal judge granted their request for an expedited marriage license based on Gray's health.
"We're thrilled this process is in place," said John Knight, ACLU of Illinois LGBT project director.
Knight says Orr's announcement means terminally ill partners won't have to jump through hoops to marry.
"These are tragic stories," said Knight. "But we are happy we have a way for people to gain access to marriage when it matters a great deal to them."
Besides Gray and Ewert, two other same-sex couples filed lawsuits requesting expedited marriage licenses citing life-threatening illness. Both couples married last week after a federal judge granted their petitions, Greve said.