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Same-sex couple’s wedding a first for Illinois

Vernita Gray (left) and Patricia Ewert were allowed to marry before the law takes effect because Gray is dying.
Vernita Gray (left) and Patricia Ewert were allowed to marry before the law takes effect because Gray is dying.Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated press

CHICAGO — In a short ceremony inside their Chicago apartment, two beaming brides made Illinois history Wednesday as they became the first gay couple to wed under the state’s new law legalizing same-sex marriage.

The law approved last week doesn’t go into effect until June, but one of the women — Vernita Gray — is terminally ill with cancer, so she and her partner of five years, Patricia Ewert, were granted an expedited marriage license by a federal judge’s order.

The two made it official Wednesday in front of more than 20 friends at their home on the city’s North Side. A Cook County judge officiated, a close friend who deemed himself the ‘‘flower girl’’ tossed rose petals, and the couple kissed several times.

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When Illinois became the 16th state to legalize gay marriage earlier this month, it was bittersweet for the couple, in their mid-60s. They feared that Gray might not live until the law would allow them to wed.

‘‘She went from one day being as full of energy as she could be to being completely bedridden,’’ Ewert said of her partner’s deterioration.

As for waiting until June, Ewert said: ‘‘It’s a long time in the cancer world.’’

But the mood was cheerful and festive Wednesday.

‘‘It’s a great day for Vernita and Pat, and an historic day for Illinois, for a deserving and loving couple to have the chance to be married on an expedited basis,’’ John Knight, LGBT Project Director at the ACLU of Illinois, said in a statement.

Associated Press