Illinois last month became the 16th state to officially legalize same-sex marriage, with nuptials officially set to begin in June 2014. But for gays and lesbians who are terminally ill and may not be around next year to benefit from the new law, there's an exception.
If one partner has a life-threatening illness, couples will be able to get married starting Monday, so long as they have a note from a doctor indicating that one of them is terminally ill.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman issued the final ruling, which impacts anyone living in the state starting Monday, so long as licenses are issued through the Cook County clerk's office, the Associated Press reported.
Coleman's ruling was made on a class-action lawsuit which was brought by four couples seeking to marry right away.
One of those couples, Elvie Jordan and Challis Gibbs, is facing a situation in which Gibbs, who has cancer, may not live until June.
"When I die, I want Elvie to be able to say, 'I lost my wife,'" Gibbs is quoted as saying in a legal complaint. "I don't want her to have to say, 'I lost my civil union partner.'"
This isn't the first time of late that a judge has ruled in favor of couples with a sick spouse gaining the right to marry before the law takes effect, though Coleman's ruling will remove the need for couples to seek a judge's order before gaining marriage rights.
"This Court can conceive of no reason why the public interest would be disserved by allowing a few couples facing terminal illness to wed a few months earlier than the timeline would currently allow," Coleman wrote in the decision.
She added, "Equally compelling are the intangible personal and emotional benefits that the dignity of equal and official marriage status confers."
In this Nov. 27, 2013 file photo, Vernita Gray, left, and Patricia Ewert holding their Illinois marriage license, after they were married in the first gay marriage in Illinois at their home in Chicago. (AP/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
As The Chicago Sun-Times reported, Vernita Gray, 64, and Patricia Ewert, 65, were the first gay couple in Illinois to marry after a judge allowed them to get a license last month following the revelation that Gray has terminal brain tumors and breast cancer.