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Gray and Ewert make history, first IL same-sex marriage
Windy City Times Wedding Guide
by Tracy Baim and Matt Simonett, Windy City Times
2014-02-05

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By court order, longtime Chicago lesbian activist Vernita Gray married Pat Ewert, her partner of five years, Nov. 27 on the city's North Side, making them the first same-sex couple to be legally married within Illinois in the state's history.

Judge Patricia Logue, former head of Lambda Legal Midwest and a longtime lesbian activist herself, performed the ceremony in front of several dozen family and friends.

In her remarks, Logue called the event "a very personal yet historic occasion—an event long-awaited and hard-won, ( and ) one that crystallizes the impact of equality and inequality in all our lives. And once, again, as so often happens in our nation's long civil rights journey. As so often happens, we are assisted by a federal court decree in favor of justice and humanity for a minority group."

Logue expressed Gray and Ewert's appreciation to the many people who made the day possible, especially Cook County Clerk David Orr, who refused to have his office defend itself against lawsuits filed against it from Illinoisans demanding marriage equality. "We never met a finer opponent," joked Logue.

Jazz singer Lucy Smith performed a song for the couple. Their friend Paul Fairchild read words of support while Jim Bennett was flower girl. Mary Morten coordinated the celebration.

Toasting the couple after the ceremony, Morten said, "It is really hard being first ... but we owe you a huge debt of gratitude for stepping out, for all of us."

"What a perfect way to be with both of you today, and I look forward to celebrating here over and over again," added Bennett.

Two days earlier, a federal court ordered Orr's office to immediately issue a marriage license to the couple, and they did so. Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed the case Nov. 22, seeking immediate action due to Gray's failing health. Judge Thomas Durkin issued the decision.

Other marriages in Illinois are not scheduled to start until June 1, 2014, based on passage of the marriage equality law Nov. 5 in Illinois and its subsequent signing by Gov. Pat Quinn Nov. 20.

"Vernita is terminally ill and she wishes to marry the woman she loves before she dies—and now she won't have to wait another day," said Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, in a press release. "These two women, who have loved and cared for each other in good times and bad, through sickness and through health, will get to know what it means to be married."

Gray was first diagnosed with cancer in 1996 and the cancer now threatens her life: "I have two cancers, bone and brain, and I just had chemo today—I am so happy to get this news. I'm excited to be able to marry and take care of Pat, my partner and my family, should I pass."

See more photos and video at www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Gray-and-Ewert-make-history-as-first-Illinois-same-sex-marriage/45349.html.

Content originally appeared in the Dec. 4, 2013, issue of Windy City Times.


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