Terminally Ill Woman and Partner First to Marry Under Ill. Law

A judge Monday ordered the immediate issuance of a marriage license to Vernita Gray, who has cancer, and partner Patricia Ewert.

BY Trudy Ring

November 26 2013 2:27 PM ET

Vernita Gray (left) and Patricia Ewert

Illinois’s marriage equality law will not go into effect until June, but one couple will be able to marry under the law now, as one of the partners has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

A federal judge in Chicago Monday ordered the Cook County clerk to immediately issue a marriage license to Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert, according to a Lambda Legal press release. Gray has had cancer for several years, and it has now spread to her bones and brain, making it unlikely that she will live until the law’s effective date. Lambda, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, and private attorneys had filed a motion with the court Friday requesting emergency action.

“I have two cancers, bone and brain, and I just had chemo today — I am so happy to get this news,” said Gray, a longtime activist, in the Lambda release. “I’m excited to be able to marry and take care of Pat, my partner, and my family, should I pass.” The women, Chicagoans who have been together for five years, will be the first same-sex couple married in Illinois.

“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, Lambda's marriage project director. “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 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.”

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