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Two more Illinois couples get early marriage go-ahead
Video link below
by Matt Simonette
2013-12-15

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A federal judge ordered Dec. 9 that two more Illinois couples—each with partners suffering from chronic illnesses—could wed ahead of the June 1, 2014, start-date for same-sex weddings in the state. A hearing on Dec. 16 will determine whether couples under similar circumstances can marry as well.

Judge Sharon Coleman from the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois issued the ruling.

The two couples are Elvie Jordan and Challis Gibbs, and Ronald Dorfman and Kenneth Ilio. Two other couples—Brenda Lee and Lee Edwards, and Patricia Tucker and Ingrid Swenson—are named in the Dec. 6 petition but were not granted permission to marry.

The petition states that the plaintiffs contending with illness, and other couples facing similar circumstances, are unfairly treated by having to wait until June for the right to marry.

"If immediate and temporary relief is not granted to Elvie, Challis, Ron, Ken, and the putative subclass, they will be irreparably harmed, because Challis, Ron, and other ill subclass members may not live to see the effective date of the Illinois marriage ban repeal," said the petition. "In light of the unconstitutionality of the State's prior marriage ban, the endorsement by the General Assembly of rights long denied, and the lack of public interest in delay, the issuance of a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction is justified."

The petition further makes the case for a speedy implementation of the change to marriage laws: "First, where a group has long been unjustly denied a basic civil right, the public has an interest in seeing laws rectifying that injustice enforced as quickly as possible. In such a situation, the public has a strong interest in the speedy enactment of legislation that remedies a past constitutional violation. Second, Plaintiffs currently do not have access to federal benefits conferred by State recognition of marriage. … The public interest is served by granting Plaintiffs immediate access to the default processes enjoyed by married couples, because their ongoing provision for their loved ones will be made more efficient and less burdensome to the State."

Dorfman has been diagnosed with systolic congestive heart failure, and his long-term prognosis is not good, according to the petition.

"My cardiologist has therefore urged me to get married as soon as possible," Dorfman said in the complaint. "Ken and I fear that I may not survive to June 2014. I would like to marry him as soon as possible to make sure that we will marry before my health deteriorates completely."

Gibbs was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stage 4 neuroendocrine cancer in November. She and Jordan had planned on waiting until June to marry, but were informed that Gibbs had at most months to live. They were advised to get a civil union as quickly as possible, to ensure Jordan would have access to certain spousal benefits, and did so Nov. 27.

But each partner wanted to have her relationship solemnized as a full marriage. "When I die, I want Elvie to be able to say, 'I lost my wife.' I do not want her to have to say that she lost her civil union partner," Gibbs said in the petition.

Dorfman said in an email that he and Ilio planned to be married at a ceremony officiated by Rev. Stan Sloan. Gibbs and Jordan were married Dec. 12 at a ceremony in their North Side home, surrounded by about a dozen friends.

During the ceremony, Jordan told Gibbs, "I love you now, and I will love you forever. Your heart is where I live." Gibbs said, simply, "Always."

The other two couples—Lee and Edwards and Tucker and Swenson—do not have time-sensitive health concerns, according to Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal, which is representing the plaintiffs alongside ACLU Illinois. "They understand that for right now our main concern is finding emergency relief for the people who might not make it until June."

Taylor added that she and her colleagues are focused on obtaining "a final determination that the ban is unconstitutional—any gay couple having to seek a court order for the ability to marry is beyond fairness."

The first state-recognized same-sex wedding performed in Illinois took place Nov. 27 when activist and former Cook County State's Attorney Victims Advocate Vernita Gray, who is terminally ill, and her partner, Pat Ewert, were wed at their home.

[Update to coverage at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Illinois-gay-couples-allowed-to-marry-for-medical-reasons/45543.html .]

Video of the ceremony by Tracy Baim, titled "Elvie Jordan and Challis Gibbs wed in Illinois, 12-12-2013," at the link: www.youtube.com/watch .


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