Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a March 4 letter to Macon County Clerk Stephen Bean that all Illinois counties could issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The letter came after a correspondence with Bean last week, wherein the clerk expressed confusion over the implications of the verdict in a federal court that said same-sex couples in Cook County could marry. Bean was eager to begin issuing licenses, but Macon County State's Attorneys were concerned because the initial ruling was directed at Cook County. They also were afraid that the legality of marriages prior to June 1, the scheduled start date, might be questioned in divorce or probate settings.
Madigan told Bean in her letter that the immediate effective date of the Cook County decision did not apply in other counties, but warned that couples denied licenses might sue, in which case they would have the support of her office.
"Even though the ruling in Lee is not binding on you, the protections guaranteed by the Constitution must exist without regard to county lines, and the Lee decision, along with the federal court decisions noted above, should be persuasive as you evaluate whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples," Madigan wrote. " … If there is another suit challenging a county clerk's refusal to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple in Illinois, our office would likely move to intervene, as we did in Lee, and urge the court to follow the holding in Lee."
In a March 4 statement, Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov applauded Madigan's opinion.
"Already some 260 couples have obtained licenses in Cook County, according to David Orr's office, and there are many thousands more around the state awaiting the time that they can have their love legally recognized," Cherkasov said. "…We applaud the attorney general for her conclusions and urge counties throughout the state to follow through," Cherkasov said.