Chicago gay, lesbian couples revel in union
'We haven't had these rights, ever'
06/08/2011 10:00 PM
When Robin Petrovic and Jamie Gayle bought a house a few months ago, they signed a deed under their legal designation as single women.
“It was very frustrating,” said Gayle, who said she’s been committed to Petrovic for three and a half years.
Inconveniences like this will be a thing of the past for the women, as Illinois on Wednesday became the sixth state to recognize civil unions.
They were joined by more than 100 other couples who lined up at the Daley Center as early as midnight to apply for civil union licenses.
“I’m thrilled this day has finally come,” County Clerk David Orr posted on his website. “This will be a joyous day for all couples — gay and straight — who want to make history as part of the inaugural group of civil unions.”
Civil unions give heterosexual and same-sex couples many of the rights granted to married couples, such as the power to make medical treatment and end-of-life decisions, inherit property and obtain spousal employment benefits.
“We’ve haven’t had these rights, ever,” Petrovic said. “It really is a huge historic moment.”
By the end of the day, 203 couples had obtained licenses at the clerk’s downtown office and five satellite locations — at least two heterosexual couples were among them.
After obtaining a civil union license, couples had to wait one day to have a ceremony. Gayle and Petrovic’s ceremony was held Sunday with family and friends, but 30 other couples were united in a mass ceremony in Millennium Park on Thursday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn attended the larger celebration, organized by Chicago’s Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues.
There are many rights that civil union couples will not receive, however. Since civil unions are not recognized in every state, same-sex couples cannot file joint federal tax returns and cannot receive Social Security or federal spousal employment benefits.
Until the federal government legally recognizes same-sex couples, Illinois LGBT advocates will continue to push for fair enactment of civil unions and the legalization of same-sex marriage.
“There are still areas of the state that are anti-equality,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of the Civil Rights Agenda, a Chicago LGBTQ advocacy and political organization. “We need to step up and be present in this movement. We need to educate people so that Illinois feels like it’s ready for same-sex marriage.”
Photos by J. GEIL/Staff Photographer