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Ken Ilio, one of the first gay men to marry in Illinois, dies at 63
2020-08-02

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Keneth Yerro Ilio—who became one of the first gay men to wed in Illinois when he married Ron Dorfman in December 2013—has died in Chicago. He was 63.

Windy City Times reported that on Dec. 16, 2013, Judge Sharon Coleman (from the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois) signed an order Dec. 16 that said same-sex couples wherein a partner faces a serious medical complication could marry ahead of the scheduled June 1, 2014, start date when marriage equality took effect in Illinois. (The case was argued by lawyers from Lambda Legal and ACLU Illinois, as well as the law firms of Kirkland & Ellis and Miller Shakman & Beem.)

At that time, other couples had already wed because of Coleman's determination, which was delivered orally Dec. 9. Elvie Jordan and Challis Gibbs were wed in their North Side home Dec. 12, while Dorfman and Ilio were married Dec. 13 in the chapel at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where Dorfman was being prepared for major heart surgery. Dorfman died Feb. 10, 2014, at age 73.

The orders were given less than two weeks after activist Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert were the first same-sex couple in Illinois to marry. They were issued an emergency marriage license after a lawsuit was filed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois.

Dorfman and Ilio had registered as domestic partners in Cook County shortly after County Clerk Orr instituted that program in 2003, but never bothered to file for Illinois civil-union status.

Ilio, a photographer who was raised in the Philippines and who studied various subjects (including veterinary medicine, in which he received a Ph.D.), was a contributor at Getty Images and the principal of Ken Ilio Associates. He was also a high-school biology teacher.

ACLU of Illinois LGBTQ & HIV Project Director John Knight said in a statement sent to Windy City Times, "Making the promise of the freedom to marry a reality for Ken and Ron before Illinois' marriage law had gone into affect given Ron's imminent passing was an important part of the movement in Illinois. It would have been cruel if this couple was denied the personal and emotional benefits of being married simply because of the effective date of the new law. Ken and Ron fought to end an injust barrier before it was too late for them and others like them."

Survivors include two brothers, Dennis and Dominador Jr., as well a cousin, Jena, the Sun-Times noted.

—Andrew Davis


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