Illinois won't have to wait until next summer to see its first same-sex marriage.
The U.S. District Court in Chicago on Monday ordered Cook County's clerk to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, one of whom is terminally ill. County Clerk David Orr said he would comply with the court's order, handed down by Judge Thomas Durkin.
"I was stunned, and I'm still stunned," said Vernita Gray, who suffers from bone and brain cancer. "It's like Christmas, my birthday, the tooth fairy all rolled into one."
Gray and her partner Patricia Ewert talked exclusively to NBC 5 about their journey and the excitement of their marriage, expected to take place as early as this week.
"I'm just so impressed," Ewert said. "The judge was so brave to do what he did. I am just amazed."
Illinois' law allows same-sex couples to get marriage licenses as of June 1, 2014, three years after the state began allowing civil unions.
"Seven months means a lot to me at this point in my life," Gray said. "It really does. Seven days means a lot to me right now. Every day is a gift."
Gray, who was first diagnosed with cancer in 1996, has been in a relationship with Patricia Ewert for five years. But her cancer now imminently threatens her life.
The emergency suit, filed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois, sought immediate action for the women.
"These two women, who have loved and cared for each other in good times and bad, through sickness and through health, will get to know what it means to be married," Lamda Legal's Camilla Taylor said.
Orr said his office will expedite a marriage license to Gray and Taylor, adding it's a service already granted to heterosexual couples in similar situations.
Gov. Pat Quinn less than a week ago signed SB10 into law, making Illinois the 16th state in the nation to allow for same-sex marriages. The District of Columbia also permits gay marriage.