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Same-sex couple's wedding a first for Illinois

Holding their Illinois marriage license, Vernita Gray, left, and Patricia Ewert smile at friends after they are married by Cook County Judge Patricia Logue on Wednesday.
Holding their Illinois marriage license, Vernita Gray, left, and Patricia Ewert smile at friends after they are married by Cook County Judge Patricia Logue on Wednesday.
Published Nov. 28, 2013

CHICAGO — In a short ceremony inside their Chicago apartment, two beaming brides made Illinois history Wednesday as they became the first gay couple to wed under the state's new law legalizing same-sex marriage.

The law approved last week doesn't go into effect until June, but one of the women — Vernita Gray — is terminally ill with cancer, so she and her partner of five years, Patricia Ewert, were granted an expedited marriage license by a federal judge's order.

The two made it official Wednesday in front of more than 20 friends at their high-rise home on the city's North Side. A Cook County judge officiated, and a close friend who deemed himself the "flower girl" tossed red rose petals and the couple kissed several times.

They were pronounced wife and wife.

"So happy, so incredibly happy," Ewert told the Associated Press after the wedding. "We feel so blessed to have this honor bestowed upon us. I love my partner, my wife now, more every single day."

When Illinois legalized gay marriage earlier this month, it was bittersweet for the couple, in their mid-60s. They feared that Gray might not live until the law would allow them to wed. They filed a lawsuit, and a federal judge allowed the two women to get an expedited marriage license.

The couple signed papers at the ceremony, which was attended by many of the city's gay rights activists; Gray has long been involved in the movement.

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