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Marriage case seeking immediate issuance of marriage license applications for all same-sex couples in Illinois where one or both partners has a terminal illness.


On Dec. 6, 2013, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed a class action lawsuit in federal court on behalf of four same-sex couples who seek to marry right away in Cook County, Illinois: Brenda Lee and Lee Edwards, Patricia Tucker and Ingrid Swenson, Ron Dorfman and Ken Ilio, and Challis Gibbs and Elvie Jordan. Although the Illinois legislature passed a bill providing for the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, and the governor signed the bill on Nov. 20, 2013, this law does not go into effect until June 1, 2014. The four couples in Lee v. Orr want to marry right away, and maintain that the continued enforcement of Illinois’ marriage ban violates their constitutional guarantees of liberty and equality.

For some same-sex couples who are facing terminal illness, the delay of almost seven months before the new marriage equality law goes into effect could prevent them ever from being able to marry. Two of the couples in this case are facing this tragic reality: Ron Dorfman and Ken Ilio, and Challis Gibbs and Elvie Jordan. Mr. Dorfman has a debilitating heart condition, and Ms. Gibbs has metastasized cancer, and their doctors advised them to get married as soon as possible.

Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed a motion asking for immediate relief for these two couples in addition to the class of couples who need to marry before June 1, 2014, because one or both members of the couple has a life-threatening illness. On Dec. 9, 2013, the Court issued a verbal order, saying the Cook County clerk’s office must immediately issue a marriage license application to Mr. Dorfman and Mr. Ilio, as well as Ms. Gibbs and Ms. Jordan. The following day, the Court issued a written order, not only affirming the previous day’s ruling in favor of Mr. Dorfman, Mr. Illio, Ms. Gibbs and Ms. Jordan, but also saying that the Cook County clerk must issue marriage license applications for all Illinois same-sex couples where one or both partners have a terminal illness, allowing couples with urgent medical circumstances to avoid legal proceedings, and instead obtain a signed form from their doctor saying they have a terminal illness and should be married immediately.