SEATTLE, March 6 (UPI) -- Last year, the state of Illinois became the sixteenth state to legalize same-sex marriage.
The bill, signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn on Nov. 20, 2013, was meant to take effect on June 1 of this year, but yesterday, Quinn decided couples shouldn’t have to wait, issuing the following statement:
“I encourage every county clerk in Illinois to quickly follow the attorney general’s guidance,” adding that "the Illinois Department of Public Health will now accept all marriage licenses issued by any county clerk in Illinois.”
The guidance Quinn refers to is a letter from Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan that followed U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman's Feb. 21 ruling that Cook County could immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
In response to a letter from a county clerk seeking clarification regarding how Coleman’s ruling affects the rest of the state, Madigan replied “the protections guaranteed by the Constitution must exist without regard to county lines,” adding, “my office’s position is that current Illinois restrictions against same-sex marriage violate the equal protection rights that belong to all citizens under the United States Constitution.”
Madigan’s letter goes on to state that though Coleman’s ruling doesn’t legally bind other counties, a “consistent” stream of federal court decisions have declared it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marriage. Madigan stood behind her words, promising that if any same-sex couple were denied a marriage license before the law takes effect in June, her office would argue the denial as unconstitutional.
In his news release encouraging county clerks to follow the Attorney General’s guidance, Governor Pat Quinn said, “Nobody should have to wait for equal rights when it comes to love.”