A federal judge has decided to allow a lesbian couple in Illinois to get married before death splits them up. Gov. Pat Quinn signed a same-sex marriage bill into law last week, but it doesn't allow weddings to begin until June, which might be too late for Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert. Gray, 65, has terminal breast cancer and her lawyer says it is her last wish to be formally married to Ewert, to whom she has been engaged for years, the Chicago Tribune reports. Instead of trying to contest the ruling, the county clerk's office issued the couple a marriage license and had it hand-delivered to their home.
"This has been an amazingly wonderful surprise and we are thrilled beyond belief," Ewert says. "The judge was an amazing human being who understands our struggle. I'm surprised, happy, delighted." The Lambda Legal civil rights group that represented the women in court says it welcomes the ruling—but the case shows why couples shouldn't have to wait another seven months. "There is no sense to that, and there are many Illinois families that are suffering significant harm because they are not married," a spokeswoman says. "While this family's situation is particularly dire, there are others, too, who need to be able to marry." (Read more Illinois stories.)