A gay couple in Illinois has an extra special reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving holiday.
“In sickness and in health has real meaning for us,” says Vernita Gray, who has battling terminal breast cancer. Gray and her soon-to-be spouse, Pat Ewert, plan to marry this week and become Illinois’ first married same-sex couple.
“Young people will look back in the way we look back at certain things, like women not being able to vote, and say, ‘Really? Was that our country?’” Gray said.
With extraordinary grace and courage, Gray and her loving partner face the immediate future, with weeks or perhaps only days to say goodbye. But the 64-year-old Gray has one final wish: to marry her partner, among other things, and to make sure she’ll be OK once she’s gone.
“I worked my whole life. I have a pension, I have social security. These are the things we work for in life to help our families, not just to disappear because I’m going to leave this earth,” Gray said.
At a joyous ceremony last week, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law that made Illinois the sixteenth state in the union to legalize same-sex marriage. The law will go into effect in June.
With the old laws still on the books, Gray and Ewert filed a lawsuit in federal court.
“It is discriminatory in an illegal way, based on someones sexual orientation. and this case illustates constitutional violation is ongoing. it affects people very day,” said lawyer Chris Clark with Lambda Legal.
Lambda Legal, and other attorneys, prevailed in court. The judge ordered the Cook County Clerk to immediately issue the historic first license — an order Clerk David Orr was happy to comply with.
“The judge was so brave to do what he did. I’m amazed with the help of Lamda Legal, Kirk and Ellis. It’s more than I thought was out there,” Ewert said.
The judge’s decision has possibly opened a legal door for other sex-couples in similar predicaments.