June 1st was a historical day for our state – it was the first day same-sex couples could obtain civil union licenses from the County Clerk. June 2nd was the first day these civil union ceremonies could be performed. The city of Chicago held a celebration on that Thursday morning, where they hosted 32 civil union ceremonies in Wrigley Square of Millennium Park. Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended and spoke at the event, and Cook County Clerk David Orr, the Hon. Timothy C. Evans, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and members of the Alliance of Illinois Judges all officiated the civil union ceremonies.
When I was first was asked to shoot the event for The L Stop, I had no idea what to expect. I’ll be honest and admit that one of my first thoughts were, ‘there are going to be a lot of protesters’. I’m now embarrassed to think that I ever expected anything negative. So much love. So much happy. Although filled with TONS of media and press from every newspaper, radio station and news channel, the event still seemed private (the pitiful 4 or 5 protestors from the Defense of Marriage Act were held far away from the closed off event). Couples were brought to stations 4 at a time and performed their ceremonies surrounded by their closest friends and family… oh yeah, and about 50 cameras trying to capture the history.
Alright, so here’s the deal. I’m not one to cry at weddings and get all emotional. But these couples have waited SO long to be able to finally be declared spouses legally in the state of Illinois, it was so hard to not get choked up. I overheard so many heartfelt vows in one day, my goosebumps didn’t leave until I was on the train heading home. You couldn’t help but awh at the oldest participating couple, Patrick and Jim – at 79 and 73 years of age, these two have been together for 47 years. 47 YEARS! They spoke of how they were forced to be closeted when they first got together and it was hard for them to believe they were now living in a time where they can not only publicly declare their love for each other, but also be declared legal spouses by the state.
I won’t take this opportunity to remind everyone that we still have a long way to come – civil unions are still not marriage – but simply to congratulate the 36 (including the 4 last minute ceremonies) couples that entered into a civil union on that Chicago morning and all the others that have or plan to, across the state.