CHICAGO | More than 80 same-sex couples — including couples from Gary and DeMotte — have gotten marriage licenses in Cook County, including some from other Illinois counties who apparently didn't want to wait until gay marriage becomes legal statewide on June 1.
Cook County Clerk David Orr began issuing licenses Friday after a federal judge ruled that Illinois' original ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional so there was nothing to stop couples from marrying now.
But U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said the ruling applied only to Cook County because the suit was filed against Orr. He is a longtime supporter of gay marriage who was barred from issuing the licenses until now.
Most licenses were issued to Chicago residents, although couples from Champaign, DuPage, Lake, Will and Winnebago counties as well as from Indiana and Wisconsin also came to Cook County for licenses. As of Monday afternoon, 95 licenses were issued countywide to gay couples, said Cook County Clerk spokeswoman Courtney Greve. A couple from Evergreen Park received a license at the Sixth District Cook County Circuit courthouse in Markham.
Among the gay couples applying for marriage licenses in Chicago were Vanessa Owens, 27, and Reina Razo, 29, of DeMotte.
The two have been a couple for the past seven years, and previously obtained a civil union when Illinois approved that concept a couple of years ago.
Owens said she and Razo wish they could be married in their own home state, but are willing to be married in Illinois. Owens said the wedding itself will take place on April 12 at a Cook County courthouse, with the couple returning to their Indiana home for a wedding reception.
“We’re happy we got the license,” Owens said. “It will be nice for us to finally be able to get our lives together in order.”
Greve said Owens and Razo were one of two Indiana gay couples that sought marriage licenses in Cook County. The other couple was from Gary, she said. That couple from Miller Beach declined to give their names.
Greve said a Cook County marriage license can be issued to a couple from anywhere, provided the actual wedding ceremony takes place within Cook County. It must take place within 60 days after the licenses are issued.
Some couples who received licenses have already been married by a judge.
Both partners in the oldest couple to get a license were 80 years old, Orr's office said.
Supporters of gay marriage said the ruling could be a signal to clerks in other counties they also should start issuing licenses now, but some clerks said they'll seek legal advice first.
Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed the marriage law in November, has said he doesn't think same-sex couples should have to wait until June.
Illinois' first same-sex couple to wed — Vernita Gray and her partner of five years, Patricia Ewert — did so in late November after an expedited marriage license was granted because Gray was terminally ill with cancer.
Times correspondent Gregory Tejeda contributed to this report.