Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert

A U.S. district court ordered the Cook County clerk to issue an expedited marriage license to a lesbian couple, one of whom is terminally ill with brain cancer.

Lambda Legal and the ACLU filed a suit on behalf of Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert who want to marry. Gray has terminal brain cancer. The state’s marriage equality law signed last week does not go into effect until June 1. Gray and Ewert will become the first couple to marry in Illinois.

In the ruling, the judge noted that expedited licenses are issued to heterosexual couples in similar circumstances.

For the marriage equality bill to go into effect sooner than June 1 would have taken a larger number of votes in the Legislature.

Illinois already had civil unions. Those will be converted to marriages, but not automatically. On June 1, couples married in Illinois can fill out paperwork that will convert the civil union into a marriage that will be retroactive to the civil union date. That will allow couples to claim any federal benefits retroactively or file amended joint tax returns that could mean refunds in some cases.