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Marriage Equality comes to Illinois

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While more than 15 Illinois counties have issued marriage certificates to same-sex couples since a federal judge ruled they could in February, all of Illinois’ 102 counties will officially begin issuing licenses on Sunday (courthouses closed on Sunday for the weekend will begin issuing licenses on Monday).

“This is a day to celebrate the hard work of so many Illinois families whose commitment to human rights and basic fairness made this moment possible,” said Senator Heather Steans (D – Chicago).

The Senate took the historic first step toward same-sex marriage last February by passing Marriage Equality legislation on Valentine’s Day. The measure was held in the House until November, when it passed and was sent back to the Senate for a second reaffirming vote.

In between the initial Senate vote in February and the final vote in November, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibited same-sex married couples from receiving federal benefits, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. This decision put additional pressure on the House to pass the legislation and allow same-sex couples to be afforded federal benefits and rights.

While the Marriage Equality legislation passed and signed by the governor stipulated marriages could begin on June 1, a federal judge ruled in February that same-sex couples could begin receiving marriage licenses immediately in Cook County. Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a decision shortly after the court ruling allowing counties to begin issuing permits outside of Cook County if they so chose.

To date, Cook County, home of Chicago, has issued more than 1,000 marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.