Marriage Backers Anticipate 10,000 Same-Sex Licenses

This is big in Chicago right now: A press conference was held to announce the 10,000th marriage license distributed to a same-sex couple in Cook County

Just as attorney John Knight, of ACLU of Illinois, finished speaking at an Aug. 29 press conference heralding the 10,000th marriage license distributed to a same-sex couple in Cook County, County Clerk David Orr said, “I now forgive you for suing me.”

While Orr was joking, his remark reflected the important contributions that his office played in implementing marriage equality locally. Orr refused to let the office defend itself legally against a lawsuit from area gay couples who wished to get married but did not yet have the legal right to do so. The office also hastily prepared paperwork and office computers when those couples were subsequently granted that legal right by a federal judge, months ahead of when the state’s marriage equality was already scheduled to take effect.

At the press conference, Orr said Cook County was about 10-12 couples away from awarding the 10,000th license. Numerous elected officials, rights-advocates and married couples who played roles in the marriage-equality struggle joined him.

Pat Ewert became part of the first same-sex couple married in the county when she wed her late wife, Vernita Gray, in November 2013. Gray was in poor health at the time, so a federal court said they would not have to wait until the state’s marriage-equality law took effect in June 2014.

“My wife Vernita used to say that, in the forty-plus years that she was out, in the very beginning, the words ‘gay’ and ‘marriage’ were never used in the same sentence,” Ewert said. “Look what we’ve accomplished today. … I know that Vernita is looking down and smiling right now, and I’m guessing that she’s doing a little dance.”

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