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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 7 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 10
Let everybody get married now, Illinois AG says
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Let everybody get married now, Illinois AG says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has issued legal guidance to her state's county clerks, telling them they may begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately.

Madigan spelled out her views in a letter to the Macon County Clerk who asked for guidance after U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled on February 21 that Cook County could issue same-sex marriage licenses even before the state's new marriage law takes effect on June 1.

In her advisory letter, Madigan said other Illinois counties were not bound by the February 21 ruling, but that she expects it 'to be persuasive' to other courts addressing the issue.

If a couple sues an Illinois county after being denied a marriage license before June 1, when the marriage equality law otherwise takes effect, Madigan said her office would intervene on the side of the plaintiffs and argue that the denial of a marriage license is unconstitutional.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said after the February 21 federal ruling that same-sex couples who live outside of Cook County can get marriage licenses there as long as they also get married in the county.

One county, at least, is declining to follow Madigan's advice. Lake County officials said that they had no plans to start issuing same-sex marriage licenses before June 1, according to Illinois State Attorney Mike Nerheim.

Lawyers in the prosecutor's office, which gives legal counsel to Lake County Clerk Willard Helander's office, said the federal court ruling that Madigan cited applies only to Cook County, Nerheim said.

Issuing questionably valid licenses could make a mess of future divorce and probate cases, Nerheim added. 'We just want to make sure that those licenses are valid,' he said.

According to the Chicago Tribune, officials from other counties in the Chicago area declined to comment on whether they would issue licenses to same-sex couples or not.

Madigan has been Illinois Attorney General since 2003, and declined to defend her state's ban on same-sex marriages when it was challenged in June 2012.

Her father Michael Madigan has been Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives since 1997. He played an equivocal role in repealing the ban on same-sex marriage, delaying but ultimately shepherding the bill through the legislature.

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