Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, advised county clerks statewide that they may begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately, the Associated Press reports.
Madigan issued the guidance Tuesday in response to a Macon County Clerk who sought advice on how to proceed in the wake of a February ruling from a federal judge in Chicago that declared Cook County must begin allowing same-sex couples to marry immediately, stating there was "no reason" to wait until the state's recently passed marriage equality law takes effect June 1. In that ruling regarding Lee v. Orr, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said her decision applied only to Cook County, the state's most populous county. Nevertheless, Champaign County followed suit and began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as well.
But in her letter to Macon county clerk Stephen Bean, Attorney General Madigan said that because numerous federal court rulings have found prohibitions on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, Illinois counties have no standing to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples who request them.
“Even though the ruling in Lee is not binding on you, the protections guaranteed by the Constitution must exist without regard to county lines, and the Lee decision along with the federal court decisions noted above, should be persuasive as you evaluate whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” Madigan wrote to Bean, according to the AP.
Illinois governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat who signed the state's marriage equality act into law, urged county clerks statewide to adhere to Madigan's advice immediately.
"Following this guidance, the Illinois Department of Public Health will now accept all marriage licenses issued by any county clerk in Illinois," Quinn said Wednesday in a statement.