Illinois' Attorney General Lisa Madigan stated in a letter that county clerks across the state are now allowed to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The letter was addressed to the Macon County Clerk after he wrote to Madigan's office regarding a court ruling in Cook County. Since this ruling, Cook County immediately began issuing marriage licenses, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Following the attorney general's letter, the Cook County court's ruling applies to the entire state.
Illinois Same-Sex Marriage Law
Last year, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which legalized same-sex marriage in Illinois. Under the new law, the state recognizes the legal union of two people (regardless of gender) as a legal marriage. Under this Act, gay couples who had already received an Illinois civil union, have the option to convert their unions to marriages after the law takes effect.
Illinois was the 16th state to recognize same-sex marriage. However, the state recognized same-sex civil unions in June 2011.
Cook County Ruling Extends To Entire State
Even though the Marriage Fairness Act isn't scheduled to take effect until June 1, 2014, Madigan's letter suggests that all clerks in Illinois can go ahead and issue marriage licenses now.
In Cook County, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled that same-sex marriages could begin immediately -- well ahead of the June 1st date. However, it was legally ambiguous whether her decision applied only to Cook County.
Enter Attorney General Madigan: She acknowledged that while Judge Coleman's decision may have only been effective in Cook County, the "consistent stream" of federal court rulings instructs that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, reports the Sun-Times. Madigan's letter also stated that if couples who were denied marriage licenses before June 1 decided to sue, the attorney general's office would argue that the denial is unconstitutional.
So far, Cook County Clerk's Office has issued 258 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to the Sun-Times. Although Madigan's letter essentially authorizes all Illinois county clerks to issue marriage licenses, if you're experiencing difficulties obtaining one, contact a family law attorney in Chicago for legal help.
- Madigan: Counties can issue same-sex marriage licenses now (The Chicago Tribune)
- The State of Civil Unions in Illinois (FindLaw's Chicago Family Law Blog)
- Illinois Gay Marriage Law: Good for the Economy? (FindLaw's Chicago Family Law Blog)
- Separate is Unequal: Illinois Gay Marriage Ban Challenged (FindLaw's Chicago Family Law Blog)