Court orders immediate marriage license for lesbian couple in Chicago

Tue. November 26, 2013 6:48 AM by News Staff

vernita gray and patricia ewert, oct. 2013

photo credit // spike king

Marriage license issued for Vernita Gray, who is terminally ill, and Patricia Ewert

Chicago, IL - A federal court Monday ordered the Cook County Clerk to immediately issue a marriage license to a terminally ill Chicago woman and her partner.

Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed the case on Friday, Nov. 22, seeking immediate action for Vernita Gray, 64, and Patricia Ewert, 65. Gray, a longtime community activist, has cancer that has spread to her bones and brain and will likely not live until the marriage law goes into effect next June. Judge Thomas Durkin issued the order in Chicago on Monday, Nov. 25.

"Vernita is terminally ill and she wishes to marry the woman she loves before she dies—and now she won't have to wait another day," said Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal. "These two women, who have loved and cared for each other in good times and bad, through sickness and through health, will get to know what it means to be married."

The couple have been in a committed, loving relationship for five years after a first date that included a play at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Gray was first diagnosed with cancer in 1996. Despite years of treatment and therapy, the cancer now imminently threatens her life. As the couple struggles through this difficult time together, marriage would not only allow the couple to celebrate their commitment to each other but also provide protection for Ewert.

"I have two cancers, bone and brain and I just had chemo today - I am so happy to get this news. I'm excited to be able to marry and take care of Pat, my partner and my family, should I pass."

"The court recognized that Vernita and Pat should not be denied the freedom to marry simply because of the arbitrary nature of the start date of the new law," added John Knight, LGBT Project Director at the ACLU of Illinois. "Their love deserves the dignity of marriage now and there is simply no justification for forcing them to wait."

The ACLU of Illinois and Lambda Legal asked that the case be heard on an emergency basis. The ruling comes in advance of the June 1, 2014 implementation date of the recently enacted law that extends the freedom to marry to Illinois same-sex couples.