Cook County Clerk David Orr's office issued its first civil union license this morning to Janean Watkins and Lakeesha Harris of Chicago, who arrived at midnight to be the first couple in line at the Daley Center. About 75 couples and their supporters arrived before the Clerk's office opened at 7:30 a.m. today, the first day Illinois allows civil unions under a law first introduced by Representative Greg Harris.
Today, the engine of government says that we will move towards justice, towards fairness, towards equal protection under the law, said Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Debra Shore, who attended the civil union kickoff this morning.
This is a day long in the making. Congratulations to the happy couples! said Clerk Orr, who is on assignment in Macedonia as an election monitor. Visit www.cookcountyclerk.com for more information about civil unions.
Already, 150 couples have 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.
Harris and Watkins, who have six children and have been together more than a decade, were emotional after receiving their license. Watkins expressed gratitude and relief after all of the hours of toiling over, 'How are we going to make sure people understand our family?'
Pam Voss and Melody Fairchild started dating 13 years ago. It's nice to finally have your relationship validated, Voss said. There are certain protections people just don't realize they have.
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 to Rep. Harris, Governor Quinn and the Illinois Legislature for the opportunity to have a civil union.
Patrick Bova (left) and James Darby.
James Darby, 79, and Patrick Bova, 73, of Chicago's Hyde Park, have been a couple for nearly a half century. Darby said, I've been dating for 47 years; it's finally going to be legitimate! Bova replied, We're now aiming for marriage. Darby and Bova were the oldest couple, and the youngest were Elena Denise Cano, 21, and Jannett Lopez, 20.
Diane Martino and Tina Kachold, together 15 years, were also in line before dawn to receive their civil union license. This shows great evolution in the state of Illinois, for heterosexuals as well, said Martino.
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 cruse 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). Other prize donations included the following:
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 2 free passes (2)
Goodman Theatre, 2 tickets to Chinglish
Starbelly Studios Photography, photo shoot with 3 complimentary prints (10)
Transistor - art, electronics, music & books, $25 gift certificate
Illinois Nut & Candy, cake toppers (2)
Eli's Cheesecake, cheesecakes (10)
LaSalle Flowers, floral arrangement
Angel's Restaurant, lunch for two gift certificate (10)
Best Gay Chicago, gift basket with Prosecco, wine glasses, Grillin & Chillin cookbook, candles, chocolate, $25 Angelina's gift certificate, $20 Mini Bar gift certificate
Restoration Salon, hair services for a couple valued at $120-$170 (4)
Wilde Bar & Restaurant, $50 gift certificate (8)
Robert V. Sierzega & Associates, Ltd. Architecture & Design, 2 hours of consultation, valued at $300
Lady Gregory's, $50 gift certificate (10)
Crew Bar + Grill, $25 gift certificate (5)
ADH Meetings & Events, gift certificate (10)
Downtown Bar & Lounge, $25 gift certificate (2)