Seven months before Illinois' same-sex marriage law goes into effect, a judge ruled Monday that two Chicago women can marry immediately because one of them has terminal cancer.
Vernita Gray, 64, and Patricia Ewert, 65, got engaged in 2009 and entered into a civil union in 2011. Gray has terminal breast cancer that recently spread to her brain and may have days or weeks to live, according to a court filing. Ewert is a breast cancer survivor.
Although Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law last week allowing same-sex marriage in Illinois, it will not go into effect until June.
"Unfortunately, that may be too late for a loving couple who has already been denied justice for too long," Cook County Clerk David Orr said in a statement following the judge's ruling. Orr, a proponent of same-sex marriage, said he would comply with the judge's orders and expedite the marriage license.
Attorney Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal, the organization that represented the women in court, tells NPR that the goal of the case was primarily to grant relief for the couple, but that the outcome could set an example for couples in similar situations.
Being legally married also would provide financial protection for Ewert in the event of Gray's death.
"This has been an amazingly wonderful surprise and we are thrilled beyond belief," Ewert told the Chicago Tribune. "The judge was an amazing human being who understands our struggle. I'm surprised, happy, delighted."
Gray and Ewert have not yet disclosed when they are getting married, but the Tribune reports that they're expected to wed this week.