MORRIS – Grundy County joined a handful of counties in Illinois allowing same-sex marriages before the law becomes official June 1.
Last Thursday, the Grundy County Clerk and recorder’s office issued the county’s first same-sex marriage license to a couple who were previously united through a civil union.
Grundy County is able to issue the licenses four months in advance because of a ruling handed down from a federal district court. The federal judge ruled in favor of allowing Cook County to issue same-sex marriage licenses before the June 1 start date, Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland said.
Shortly after Cook County began issuing the licenses, Champaign County released a statement allowing same sex marriages as of Feb. 26 citing Cook County’s ruling.
Now, counties across the state are following suit.
“I expect to see the dominoes fall in the next few weeks as more and more counties will start following the ruling,” Helland said.
The original ruling pertained only to Cook County, but because it came directly from a federal district court, it proves constitutionality of the early issuance, regardless of county lines.
The Cook County ruling set a precedent for any future lawsuits, Helland said, so adhering to the June 1 start date could actually be a liability for the county.
“If someone wanted to get a gay marriage in Grundy County and we denied them that right, there would be a lawsuit,” Helland said. “And based on this lawsuit [in Cook] we think it’s not a battle worth fighting.”
Lana Phillips, county clerk and recorder, said currently any couple with a civil union can convert their union to a marriage, free of charge, until June 1, 2015, under the new law. Those without a previous civil union will be charged the standard $30 marriage license fee.
“They will be charged the same fee as any other couple would be charged,” Phillips said.
Phillips said she expects those with civil unions in Grundy County to make the conversion while it is free.
The county clerks office has issued 18 civil unions in Grundy County to date. Whether all of them will convert to marriages is unknown. Currently, only one marriage conversion has taken place since last Thursday.
“Regardless of your opinion on this, the legislature acted and [Gov.] Pat Quinn signed it into law,” Helland said. “As the state’s attorney, I’m going to follow the laws.”