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Court grants first gay marriage license; Terminally ill Vernita Gray to marry longtime partner Pat Ewart

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A court has ordered a couple be granted a marriage license because one partner is battling breast cancer.

Vernita Gray's cancer is terminal and it has spread to her brain. She and her partner Pat Ewert have been in a committed relationship for more than five years. The 64-year-old Gray has been a gay activist in Chicago since the 1960's. Her last wish is to marry in her home state.

"It's like Christmas, a birthday, tooth fairy all rolled in one," said Gray.

Gray's excitement is all about getting married as soon possible to Ewert. Time is crucial for Gray. She has terminal cancer and can't wait until June when Illinois' Marriage Equality Law goes into effect.

"Seven months means a lot to me, seven days means a lot to me," Gray said. "Every day is a gift."

With the help of Lambda Legal, Gray and Ewert asked a federal judge to issue an order for an early marriage license. Tuesday, the request was granted.

"I was cautiously optimistic the judge was going to do the right thing, this is a compelling state of circumstances the judge gravitated toward that," said attorney Christopher Clark.

The couple says given Gray's medical issues, it's important for each to have the rights and benefits that come with marriage.

"Because I'm ill, I can't be here for myself, so in sickness and in health has real meaning to us," she said.

Gray and Ewert will be the first gay couple to legally marry in Illinois, but they say making history is not as important as living out their dream of marrying in their home state.

"We have a lot to be thankful for," Ewert said. "I don't think this is what the pilgrims had in mind, (but) it's great for us."

Cook County Clerk David Orr's office already gave Gray and Ewart the paperwork for a marriage license. The couple plans to get married this week.

Marriage equality was signed into law last week. The Illinois constitution dictates when a law goes into effect after it is passed and signed.

There will likely be more couples in similar circumstances that may be asking the courts to marry early.

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gay marriage, local, sarah schulte
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