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Marriage equality comes early for terminally ill

It was a moment of triumph for same-sex marriage advocates when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act last month. For some couples, though, one provision of the law was troublesome: the June 1, 2014, effective date. They wondered why they had to wait.

A few lawmakers saw their point and introduced a bill that would have the law take effect immediately. The General Assembly could take action on it as soon as legislators convene at the end of January.

A few couples went to court over the matter. They wanted to know why they had to wait, because they were running out of time to marry. In each couple, one partner had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

The first case was decided in November. A federal judge cleared the way for a woman with cancer to marry her partner immediately. They were the first same-sex couple to marry in the state.

The second case, a class action filed by four couples, was decided just this week. In the landmark ruling, the federal judge cleared the way for any same-sex couple in the state of Illinois to apply for a marriage license immediately if one partner has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Now, rather than going through a court proceeding, where the details of the medical condition would be hashed over, all a couple needs is a note from a physician verifying that one partner is terminally ill.

There is one procedural matter, however, that couples should be aware of: They must apply for the license and wed in Cook County. We'll explain why and get into more detail about the decision in our next post.

Source: ABC News, "Illinois Gay Marriages OKed for Terminally Ill," Michael Tarm, Dec. 16, 2013 

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