"In sickness and in health, until death do us part." The stock vow had a heightened meaning last November during the marriage ceremony of Vernita Gray and Pat Ewert, who made history as the first gay couple to tie the knot in Illinois. A longtime advocate of LGBTQ rights, Gray had terminal cancer and was not expected to survive the seven months until June 1, when Illinois's same-sex marriage law would take effect. So last fall, with the help of Lambda Legal, the civilly unionized couple successfully sued for the right to carry out Gray's matrimonial last wish. U.S. District Court judge Thomas Durkin issued the decision, opening the door for other gay couples seeking nuptials in Cook County. "It's like Christmas, my birthday, the tooth fairy all rolled into one," Gray said after she and Ewert were finally issued a marriage license. The 65-year-old passed away on March 19 with her wife by her side.