Illinois gay couples can get marriage licences today

Months before Illinois officially makes gay marriage legal, couples can get marriage licences statewide on Wednesday
David Wilk leaps across the counter to hug Cook County Clerk's office employee Louisa Nicotera after obtaining a marriage licence with partner Charlie Gurion in February. Same-sex couples across Illinois can now get a marriage licence even though gay marriage isn't set to become law until June. (M. Spencer Green/AP)

Illinois's attorney general says county clerks statewide can immediately begin issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples even though the state law legalizing gay marriage doesn't take effect until June.

Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued the guidance Tuesday in response to a question from Macon County Clerk Stephen Bean.

A state law legalizing same-sex marriage takes effect June 1, but a federal judge in Chicago ruled last month that Illinois's original ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

The court said the ruling only applied to Cook County — Illinois's most populous county, which includes the city of Chicago. But in a letter to Bean, Madigan said that because current restrictions on gay marriage are unconstitutional, same-sex couples asking for a marriage licence in any county can be given one.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn says county clerks should quickly follow Madigan's guidance.