CHICAGO — Illinois became the latest state in the nation on Sunday to allow same-sex marriage, and gay and lesbian couples across the state began to apply for licenses.
Sunday marked the first day all 102 counties in Illinois could issue the licenses to same-sex couples. It was also the first day couples statewide who have civil unions can ask to convert those to a marriage.
Governor Pat Quinn signed a law in November legalizing same-sex marriages throughout the state starting June 1.
Sunday’s celebration was anticlimactic for some, because 16 counties began issuing marriage licenses immediately after a February federal court ruling. Equality Illinois, a gay-rights advocacy group, estimates 1,300 same-sex licenses have been issued since then.
The remaining 86 counties opted to wait until the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act officially took effect, fearing that early issuances could trigger lawsuits and perhaps cause legal problems for the couples.
Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive of Equality Illinois, called Sunday ‘‘a history-making day in Illinois.’’
Gay couples and gay-rights advocates marked Sunday with blessing ceremonies and group weddings. Several county clerks offices made an exception and held special office hours Sunday for license-seekers unwilling to wait until Monday morning.
Same-sex couples are now allowed to legally marry in 19 states. Massachusetts became the first to legalize such marriages in 2004, after that state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled that restricting marriage to heterosexuals violated the Massachusetts Constitution.
The Supreme Court last summer struck down a central part of the Defense of Marriage Act and granted federal recognition to same-sex married couples. Since then, no state ban has survived a court challenge, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for same-sex marriage.
The Obama administration announced in February that it would no longer defend federal laws banning recognition of same-sex marriages.