First same-sex wedding takes place in Illinois

 This June 2011 photo provided by Starbelly Studios in Chicago shows Vernita Gray, left, and Patricia Ewert smiling during their civil union ceremony at Millennium Park in Chicago. They were married on Nov. 27, 2013. Timmy Samuel, Starbelly Studios / AP

CHICAGO - Two Chicago women on Wednesday became the first same-sex couple to say their vows in Illinois after a federal judge granted an expedited marriage license because of one woman's ailing health.

Patricia Ewert and Vernita Gray took the vows in a private ceremony, days after a judge agreed to expedite their wedding because of Gray's terminal cancer.

Illinois legalized gay marriage earlier this month, becoming the 16th state to legalize the practice. But the law doesn't take effect until June 1 - a date both women feared Gray might not live to see.

So the women filed a lawsuit in federal court late Friday last week, citing Gray's cancer as a reason to get a marriage license quickly. Then on Monday, a judge ordered the license and Cook County clerk officials hand-delivered it.

The two, who are in their 60s, became engaged in 2009.

"This is the realization of a very long cherished dream for them both," Camilla Taylor, the head of the legal advocacy group Lambda Legal, which helped represent the couple, said before the ceremony.

She said marriage also means that Ewert can be better protected when it comes to taxes and other federal benefits not guaranteed with a civil union.

Their legal challenge could be just the beginning and may fuel efforts to change the effective date of the law, which Gov. Pat Quinn signed last week. There's legislation pending to allow the law to take effect immediately and it could come up in late January when lawmakers gather in Springfield.

Quinn, who helped Illinois legalize civil unions in 2011, said if lawmakers sent him that bill he'd sign it.



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