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Champaign County To Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Early

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (CBS) – Just days after a federal judge gave Cook County the green light to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses right away, a Republican county clerk from downstate is taking it upon himself to the same in his county.

Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said his office will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately.

“Denying a license to a same sex couple would provide no benefit to the County and would likely result in litigation at taxpayer expense,” he said in a news release.

The state law allowing same-sex couples to get married does not officially take effect until June 1, but last Friday, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled Cook County could begin issuing licenses immediately, after several gay couples had sued Cook County Clerk David Orr to force him to issue them licenses right away.

Orr did not oppose the suit, and actually argued on the plaintiff’s behalf in court filings, so Coleman saw no reason to force the couples — or anyone else — to wait until June 1.

“There is no reason to delay further when no opposition has been presented to this Court and committed gay and lesbian couples have already suffered from the denial of their fundamental right to marry,” Coleman wrote. “Since the parties agree that marriage is a fundamental right available to all individuals and should not be denied, the focus in this case shifts from the ‘we can’t wait’ for terminally ill individuals to ‘why should we wait’ for all gay and lesbian couples that want to marry. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: the time is always ripe to do right.”

Coleman’s ruling affected only Cook County, because the plaintiffs in the case had sued only the Cook County Clerk’s office.

However, on Wednesday, Hulten said “after consulting with State’s Attorney Julia Rietz, I have come to the conclusion that the rationale of the case applies to all citizens of Illinois and that Champaign County residents should have no fewer Constitutional rights than those in Cook County.”

At least 80 same-sex couples have obtained marriage licenses in Cook County since Coleman’s ruling, many of them people who live outside the county.

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