DECATUR – Macon County will join other counties across the state in issuing same-sex marriage licenses ahead of the June 1 start date.
Macon County Clerk Steve Bean said Wednesday his office will begin to issue the licenses at the start of business hours Monday, March 10. The office will spend the rest of this week updating its software and giving the staff the chance to use the new system.
The decision comes after Attorney General Lisa Madigan responded to Bean's previous request for guidance after a federal judge in Chicago ruled Feb. 21 that restrictions against same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. While the ruling only applied to Cook County, clerks in Champaign and McLean counties used the ruling to say they, too, would issue licenses before the state's new marriage law takes effect June 1.
Madigan told Bean Tuesday evening that he and other county clerks were not bound by last month's ruling, but the attorney general's office expects clerks and county state's attorneys “to be persuasive” to other courts addressing the matter.
If a couple sues an Illinois county after being denied a marriage license before the law otherwise takes effect, Madigan said her office would intervene on the side of the plaintiffs and argue that the denial is unconstitutional.
“I want to thank Attorney General Madigan for getting a quick opinion to me and other clerks across the state on the issue,” Bean said.
As of Wednesday, Bean said he has had some calls inquiring about same-sex marriage licenses, but he did not know how many licenses his office would issue out next week. Several of the first Macon County residents to receive civil unions in 2011 left Illinois to marry in other states where same-sex marriage was legalized. Other civil unions have since ended in dissolution, Bean said.
While Macon County prepares itself to issue the licenses, other Central Illinois county clerks were still waiting to hear from their state's attorneys Wednesday afternoon before they made a decision.
DeWitt County Clerk Dana Smith said she is OK with issuing same-sex marriage licenses, and her office's computer software should be updated by the end of this week to allow it. However, she was waiting to get the go-ahead from DeWitt County State's Attorney Karle Koritz.
“As soon as I get the green light, I'm ready to go,” Smith said.
Moultrie County Clerk Georgia C. England said her state's attorney advised her office to hold off issuing any licenses before June 1. However, England has not received any inquiries about obtaining a license, and State's Attorney Jeremy Richey said they may reconsider their stance if someone were to apply for a license.
Madigan's letter to Bean was met with praise across the state, including from Gov. Pat Quinn, who said Madigan's guidance made it clear that every clerk should begin issuing licenses.
“Nobody should have to wait for equal rights when it comes to love,” Quinn said. “I encourage every county clerk in Illinois to quickly follow the Attorney General’s guidance.”