Civil Union Official, $35 Gets You Hitched

Elected officials agree it's 'a historic day for Illinois and long overdue for many couples.'

Carla Shaw and Karen Behen have been together for 19 years. The couple have known each other since childhood. But it was not until years later that they decided to become partners.

In between, Shaw got married and had two children. She later divorced her now-deceased husband, who she said was supportive of her relationship with another woman. Her two grown sons have also welcomed Behen, she noted.

On June 2, Shaw and Behen of Decatur will make it official at a mass ceremony planned at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago.

"We're very excited," Shaw told Skokie Patch. "We've been together 19 years and this is something that we've been hoping to see in our lifetime."

Nearly four months after recognizing same-sex unions, the Cook County 2nd District Courthouse in Skokie and other courts across Illinois will open their doors to gay partners seeking official state recognition starting June 1.

In Cook County, the downtown office of County Clerk David Orr plans to start issuing licenses at 7:30 a.m.

While the filing of papers and the ceremony are allowed at the Skokie courthouse, applicants are "encouraged" to obtain their license, at least on the first day, at the Daley Center located at 50 W. Washington St. in downtown Chicago, Orr's spokesman Courtney Greve said Tuesday. 

On June 1, Orr will host a reception at the downtown office for all applicants, after they receive their license, which is valid within 60 days of its issuance.  

"I'm thrilled this day has finally come," Orr said in a press release. "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."

Aside from the downtown Chicago and Skokie locations, licenses are also available at the clerk's offices in Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Markham and Bridgeview. 

According to the new law, all couples must wait until the day after they obtain their license to have a civil union ceremony. So June 2 is the first day ceremonies can be performed.

On June 2, a mass civil union ceremony organized by Chicago will be held at the Millennium Park.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel along with the governor are expected to attend. 

Erik Roldan, public information officer of Lambda Legal, told Skokie Patch that 33 couples are expected to participate in the ceremony. 

Within 10 days of a ceremony, civil union officiants must return the completed license for it to be certified and recorded by the county clerk.

"The struggle for civil union was long fought and hard won," said Bernard Cherkasov of Equality Illinois. "People have been in relationships for such a long time" and are eagerly anticipating the civil union to begin, he added. 

But not everyone is pleased with the legislation, with David E. Smith of the Illinois Family Institute calling it "radical."

"We're sad and we're extremely disappointed that the Illinois General Assembly thought it was necessary to pass a piece of legislation in a lameduck session," Smith told Skokie Patch.

He said the legislation has "radically redefined what it means to be a spouse."

In a statement, Smith said the passage of civil union for same-sex couples "is a tragic attempt by radical forces to advance a political agenda."

"Unfortunately, this social experiment will have a ripple effect on our culture that will touch every American and, most tragically, our children," said Smith, whose group is working to gather signatures to force a ballot initiative to define marriage as between a man and a woman. 

"The state has no compelling interest in legally recognizing homosexual relationships," he contended. 

But Cherkasov said, such a move will be challenged legally by Equality Illinois and other gay-rights groups.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) sent Skokie Patch a statement calling the June 2 mass civil union "a historic day for Illinois and long overdue for many couples"

The Northside congresswoman said the ceremony "is a fitting testament of the importance of this day to many families and a celebration of the many loving couples who will benefit from the move to eradicate discrimination  against gays and lesbians."

She also vowed to support future legislation giving full marriage rights under the federal law. "I will continue to work to make that happen,” added the lawmaker for the 9th Congressional District. 

The law called  Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act gives partners the right to hospital visitation and insurance coverage. It also gives partners the right to dispose of property in case of incapacity or death. 

At the same time, the law gives protection to religious institutions to define marriage, without forcing them to recognize same-sex unions or to solemnize such unions. 

Those who are qualified to get a civil union license much be at least 18 years old and should not be related to one another. Applicants must present proper identification and pay a $35 fee.

According to the clerk's office, couples who are already registered as domestic partners in Cook County will receive a $20 discount, and their domestic partnership "will be automatically dissolved" in lieu of the civil union. 

Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont give same-sex couples the legal right to marry. Illinois will join several other states that permit those couples either civil union or domestic partnership status.

Greg in Huntley June 01, 2011 at 07:54 PM
Civil Union License Cost Varies by County One can get a civil union from any county in the state, however the ceremony (by a judge or clergy) must be provided in the county where the license is obtained. The cost is for Boone County $20, Kane County $27, McHenry County $30, Cook County $35. Judges in all couties charge $10 to perform the ceremony. So the frugal person may want to shop around. (Note: Mariage licenses are the same cost as civil union licenses.)
Vincent Russell June 01, 2011 at 11:43 PM
I read the qualifications and the state law, but don't understand why they exclude two homosexual brothers or two homosexual sisters who wish to enter into a civil union. For that matter, a father and son, whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. It is complete discrimination. What about down the road, this senario: 1. homosexual woman who is artificially inseminated by a male and bears a child 2. her partner is artificially inseminated by a different male and bears a child Question: Why can't these two children enter into a civil union between each other if both aged 18? It doesn't make sense. Civil unions should be open to everyone!
Skokieguy June 02, 2011 at 12:45 PM
First, I must respond to Vincent. There are laws that regulate the whether relatives can marry and you know it. Your troll-ish comment appears to be a thinly veiled version of "If we allow gay marriage, what's next, a man and a dog". And to all reading this news story and comments, please note that Civil Unions in Illinois provide only limited benefits. Most benefits (over 1,000) married couples receive are at the Federal level, which is denied to gay partners. Remember that gay people pay taxes to support Federal programs that we are barred from participating in. Our taxes help underwrite the tax exempt status of religious and political non-profits that use their tax savings to preach hatred and discrimination. Consider that most heterosexual marriages will end in divorce and most children are raised by single parent families. The "traditional" model of two married parents raising children exists in 1950's fantasies, not modern American. Recent large scale studies show that children raise in a household with two male parents do as well and children raised in households with two female parents actually do better than in a "traditional" household. Studies also show that same sex couples are more willing to adopt.
daffy&goofy June 11, 2011 at 08:14 AM
Its about time that IL has finally passed this law....now it will be interesting to see how employers/insurances will react to abiding to the law with ones Life Insurance Policies. I will be very watchful to see how "AETNA" will honor Civil Unions in IL. And for those who are planning Civil Unions with each other, I hope you don't have to face the nightmare I went thru with AETNA. Look at the fine print people.... I concur with the above comment and well put.


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