Illinois Officials Addressing Confusion Over Status Of Marriage Equality Law
Some Illinois counties are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples ahead of the state's new marriage equality law, resulting in questions among state agencies as to whether those marriages should be recognized.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn this past week ordered the state's national guard to recognize any marriages of same-sex couples performed in the state, BuzzFeed has learned.
Since a Feb. 21 federal court ruling requiring Cook County to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a patchwork of marriage equality has emerged in the state — with some counties deciding to join Cook in issuing licenses under the ruling, while many more are holding off on doing so until the June 1 start date of the new state law.
Quinn's move, which came in a directive to the Department of Military Affairs sent April 11, is one of several attempts by state officials to reduce confusion in the state despite the patchwork.
"Same-sex couples in Illinois have waited long enough for marriage equality, and there is no valid reason for any Illinois state agency to delay full recognition of equal rights for all Illinoisans," Quinn said in the directive, addressed to National Guard Gen. Daniel Krumrei, who requested guidance on the matter. "Therefore, as Commander-in-Chief of the Illinois National Guard, I hereby direct the Illinois National Guard to immediately recognize all Illinois marriage certificates issued to same-sex couples since the federal court's February 21, 2014 decision as valid."
This is not the first time there have been questions about the effects of the federal court's decision.
In a move to dispel confusion among county clerks after the ruling, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that while the court found the state's prohibition of marriage for same-sex couples as unconstitutional, individual county clerks and their attorneys must decide whether or not they too will issue licenses to same-sex couples prior to June 1 — declining to issue any definitive directive on the question. Following Madigan's guidance, Quinn said the state's Department of Public Health would accept marriage licenses from any county.
But so far, only 16 of the state's 102 counties — including Cook — have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to Equality Illinois, an LGBT rights group.
And perhaps indicative of the lack of clarity throughout the state, Quinn's directive incorrectly states there are only four counties issuing marriage licenses, saying, "As a result of the court's ruling, as well as the position of my Administration and of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, four Illinois counties have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples."
Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov confirmed this is an error.
"We will have to reach out to them and make sure they have accurate information," said Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov of the count, and noted that even more counties will be issuing the licenses in coming weeks.
Cherkasov did say, however, that the governor's guidance to the National Guard should settle any questions about the validity of marriages performed throughout the state.
The Illinois National Guard could not be reached for comment after hours on Sunday.