It appears marriage equality is coming to Illinois same-sex couples a few months ahead of schedule.
Late Tuesday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan urged counties across the state to grant same-sex marriage licenses immediately on the heels of a federal judge's ruling last month that Cook County same-sex couples should not have to wait until the marriage equality law's June 1 effective date to wed.
At least one other county, Champaign County, has already followed in Cook County's footsteps and opted to grant early marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
While Madigan wrote in a letter to Macon County Clerk Stephen Bean that other Illinois counties are not bound by the Cook County-specific ruling, she is encouraging same-sex couples across the state to go ahead and apply for licenses and, should they be denied, either apply for a license in a state already granting them, wait until June 1 or sue, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Madigan said her office would side with any couples who sue an Illinois county for denying an early same-sex marriage license because she believes such a denial, in light of a "consistent stream" of "persuasive" federal court rulings, is unconstitutional, the Chicago Sun-Times notes.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn echoed Madigan's sentiment in a Tuesday news release, urging county clerks across the state to follow the Attorney General's guidance and noting the Illinois Department of Public Health will accept same-sex marriage licenses issued by any county.
“Nobody should have to wait for equal rights when it comes to love," the governor added.
LGBT advocacy group Equality Illinois described Madigan's statement as a "green light" for marriage equality statewide, BuzzFeed reported.
Despite Madigan's announcement, some county clerks still appear determined to wait until the June 1 effective date to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Lake County Clerk Williard R. Helander said she would wait until the marriages are clearly legalized, the Daily Herald reports. Clerks in other counties have also previously indicated they will wait until June 1, the AP notes.
Illinois became the 16th U.S. state to pass a marriage equality law last November.