More counties follow Cook's lead

By Anthony Antoine |, Alex Davis |, Amanda Porterfield |

Published 02/28 2014 12:26PM

Updated 03/10 2014 05:30PM

Latest: 4:03 pm, 3/10/14, Monday
MACON COUNTY -- Monday was the first chance same-sex couples could get a marriage license here. The county clerk says two were issued. It's the sixth county in the state to make the change.

McLean County will do the same March 24. The Sangamon County clerk says he plans to wait until the original June 1 start date.
Latest: 9:11 pm, 3/9/14, Sunday
MACON COUNTY -- With the support of State's Attorney Lisa Madigan, Macon County will become the third in the state to issues same-sex marriage licenses. In 2011, the county made history.

Macon County Clerk Stephen Bean says, "We were the first county to issue civil unions."

They've only issued about sixty of them. Bean says couples wanted to validate their love with a marriage license.

"We had quite a few of our civil unions go to Iowa and get married, because they thought that day would never come."

It's finally here. The state said couples could get married starting June 1, 2014. A Cook County court ruled it could happen sooner and Bean sought out advice from Lisa Madigan.

"It’s something a lot of people wanted. The law should apply to everybody in the state of Illinois no matter what and that’s what Lisa Madigan said. Even though the court case ruled with Cook County, she said it applied across the board. I really applaud Attorney General Madigan."

On March 10, couples in Macon County can finally get their marriage licenses.

Bean says, "We don’t know what kind of numbers we'll see."

A software upgrade and additional training for staff was needed. Bean hopes to have everything work without a hitch.

"Hopefully everything works well tomorrow, knock on wood."

A civil union license stated "Partner A" and "Partner B." Now, same-sex couples will have the choice of spouse, bride or groom.
Latest: 4:18 pm, 3/7/14, Friday
MACON COUNTY -- Starting Monday, same-sex couples here will be able to get married. Officials in the clerk's office have been preparing all week. By Monday, staff and computer software will be up-to-date.

Currently, the language on the software reads "partner 1 and 2," but the state has made changes. Going forward, forms will read, "groom, bride and spouse." It's all so offices statewide can practice sensitivity when speaking with couples.

Even though the office will be good to go next week, the clerk there isn't expecting a lot of foot traffic. The move to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples before June 1 comes out of a ruling for Cook County.

Other counties are now using that precedent to issue licenses. Champaign County started last week. So far, it's given out eleven.

In Sangamon County, the clerk is weighing all his options. He doesn't have a plan to issue licenses before June 1. He wants to look at the validity of the document to make sure it will stand the test of time so he can preserve and protect records.
Update: 5:02 pm, 2/27/14, Thursday
CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- County clerks are making the call on same-sex marriage licenses and they're coming to different conclusions. Cook and Champaign counties decided to issue licenses early before the new law starts.

But, Vermilion County Clerk Lynn Foster says it won't happen here because the law tells them not to do it until June 1. She says the State's Attorney helped her make the decision. She says she was surprised she hasn't taken one phone call asking her to follow Cook and Champaign counties.

Other county clerks are also considering what to do. In Macon County, a decision will be made next week, while in McLean County, license will start to be issued then.
Original: 10:01 pm, 2/26/14, Wednesday
CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- A county clerk's decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses early has sparked conversation across Central Illinois. Gordy Hulten issued licenses Wednesday in Champaign County; months before the law goes into effect in June. However, several other counties say they're not following suit. WCIA-3's Amanda Porterfield has this report.

"After several days of deliberations, we decided that what's unconstitutional in Cook County is unconstitutional everywhere. Champaign County residents have no fewer rights than those in Cook County," says Gordy Hulten.

It's a move which took same-sex couples in Champaign County and some clerks across Central Illinois by surprise.

"Everybody is a little up in the air about what to do," says Coles County Clerk Sue Rennels. "Gordy is a good clerk, and I respect what he does. It's just not what I'm going to do at this time."

Hulten's decision comes a week after a federal judge ruled Cook County gay couples did not have to wait until the state's new same-sex marriage law takes effect this summer.

"I'm not prepared to do that because I don't take orders from the Cook County judge. I take my orders from the State of Illinois," says Rennels.

Rennels says she's been on the phone with clerks in surrounding counties all day and they agree that it's best to wait. However, the decision has caused many clerks to at least talk to their States Attorney's to legally see if they can do it in their county.

"If we issued a license and went to court, the marriage license could be considered invalid. As much as I would love to do it, I want to make sure that I don't jump the gun and end up hurting someone down the road," says Steve Bean.

Counties have been preparing the proper forms more quickly since the ruling in Cook County. Now many are just looking for some more direction.

"I think we'll all be happy when it gets worked out, and we can go on and do our duties as county clerks," says Rennels.

Bean says he hopes since State's Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been involved in the ruling, she will tell counties how to move forward.

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