Same-sex couples in one Illinois county will be able to marry effective immediately following a federal court ruling handed down Friday.
According to the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, "There is no reason to delay further when no opposition has been presented to this Court and committed gay and lesbian couples have already suffered from the denial of their fundamental right to marry."
The decision in the case, Lee v. Orr, which was filed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois in December on behalf of several Illinois couples seeking to marry immediately, means same-sex couples in Cook County, Illinois will not have to wait until June for the implementation of same-sex marriage legislation approved by state lawmakers last year.
While Lambda Legal and the ACLU filed an emergency motion, which was granted last month, seeking immediate issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples facing terminal illness, today's decision will apply to all same-sex couples in Cook County.
Stating that there is "no trepidation that marriage is a fundamental right to be equally enjoyed by all individuals of consenting age regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation," Coleman declared that "there is no dispute here that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and infringes on the plaintiffs' fundamental right to marry."
"We're thrilled that Judge Coleman recognized the serious harm to the many Illinois families from continuing to deny them the freedom to marry," said John Knight, LGBT and AIDS Project director for the ACLU of Illinois, in a statemnet. "The U.S. Constitution guarantees these families the personal and emotional benefits as well as the critical legal protections of marriage now, and we are thankful that the court extended this dignity to couples immediately."
Added Christopher Clark, counsel for Lambda Legal, "The wait is over! We are thrilled that the court recognized the unfairness of forcing same-sex couples to wait for months to marry. Justice has prevailed and full equality is no longer delayed for Illinoisans who wish to marry in Cook County before June 1."
[Photo: Illinois State Capitol. Credit: Meagan Davis, via Wikimedia Commons.]