Gay Couples say Civil Unions a step in the Right Direction, for Chicago

Chicago – Cook County Clerk David Orr said his office issued 203 civil union licenses   on the first day they were able to  in Illinois. 

Orr’s office said Wednesday evening that many couples arrived before the clerk’s office opened in downtown Chicago.   But officials say the office saw a steady stream of couples applying for civil unions until the office closed at 7 p.m.

The first civil union license was issued Wednesday morning to Janean Watkins and Lakeesha Harris of Chicago, who arrived at midnight to be the first couple in line at the Daley Center, according to the release.
(They started the line at Midnight last night!)

“This is a day long in the making,” said Orr, who is on assignment in Macedonia as an election monitor.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 150 couples had obtained licenses at the Clerk’s downtown office, including a few dozen at the Clerk’s five suburban offices. At least two of the couples were heterosexual, the release said.

Harris and Watkins have six children and have been together more than a decade.

Another couple, Pam Voss and Melody Fairchild started dating 13 years ago. “It’s nice to finally have your relationship validated,” Voss said.

Qadree and Troy Holmes, who have been together for six years, met at a barbeque Qadree hosted. Although the couple had a wedding ceremony in 2007 at their church, they were grateful for the opportunity to have a civil union.

Hyde Park residents James Darby, 79, and Patrick Bova, 73, the oldest couple to obtain their civil union license Wednesday, have been a couple for nearly a half century. The youngest couple were Elena Denise Cano, 21, and Jannett Lopez, 20.

Because Watkins and Harris were first in line to receive their civil union license, they received a gift package from several sponsors, including: a two-night stay at the Palmer House Hilton; free Eli’s Cheesecake each anniversary for the rest of their lives; a $100 gift certificate to Wilde Bar & Restaurant; a Starbelly Studios photo shoot with three complimentary prints; a $100 Downtown Bar & Lounge gift certificate; and a $50 LaSalle Flowers gift certificate.

More than 80 other “presents” were donated and raffled off at a reception hosted by the Clerk’s office. Grand prize winners Jef Johnson and Allen Nichols received a 2-hour party cruise from Chicago’s First Lady Cruises, which includes complimentary wine and beer as well as a gift basket with champagne, chocolate and more (valued at $2,500).

In north suburban Lake County, County Clerk Willard Helander reported that six couples were in line for their civil union licenses by 8:30 a.m. As of 3:30 p.m. 15 civil union licenses had been issued in Lake County, according to Helander’s office.

Married couples have 1,138 federal rights, protections and responsibilities.
Civil Unions provides legal protection to couples at the state law level, but omits federal protections, as well as the dignity, clarity, security and power of the word “marriage”.

Civil unions give couples the right to make funeral and end-of-life decisions, the right to share a room in a nursing home, automatic hospital visitation, adoption and parental rights, pension benefits, inheritance rights, the right to decide how to dispose of a partner’s remains, and the right not to testify against each other in court. It is more than we had before!  I’ll take it. For now.