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Marriages to start in Illinois June 1
by Matt Simonette

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June 2014 won't just mark an ordinary gay-pride celebration for the LGBT community and their allies in Illinois—it's also the month that SB10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act, takes effect throughout the state.

Some LGBT Illinoisans have been able to marry legally in the state for several months—a federal judge ruled in February that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Many parts of the state, among them Cook County, enthusiastically welcomed that development; County Clerk David Orr, who refused to defend himself and his office against the lawsuit that precipitating the ruling, was issuing marriage licenses within hours of the decision.

As of May, counties that joined Cook in issuing licenses include Cass, Champaign, Clinton, DeKalb, Greene, Grundy, Hardin, Jackson, Macon, McLean, Ogle, Perry, St. Clair, Wabash and Woodford.

Additionally, according to a May 14 statement from Equality Illinois, five other counties said they will be ready to receive marriage license applications from same-sex couples on Friday, May 30: Clay, DeWitt, Johnson, Massac and Morgan.

Representatives from Champaign, Christian, Crawford and Montgomery counties told Equality Illinois their clerk's offices would be open Sunday, June 1. Because of a 24-hour waiting period that is required after getting a marriage license, June 2 will be the first day couples applying on that day can marry. ( Cook County's office will not open until June 2. ) In areas where the county clerk's office is closed June 1, June 3 will be first day.

Shortly after Judge Sharon Coleman's ruling in February, Orr told Windy City Times Feb. 27 that marriages had been taking place in a slow but steady trickle.

"We haven't had a stampede, which is actually a good thing," Orr said. "We want to make sure people know the licenses are only good for 60 days, and I know a lot of people will want June weddings."

Another reason some couples chose to wait until SB10 actually takes effect is a component of the law allowing couples that have already entered into a civil union to backdate their marriage license to the date of the civil union, without a new ceremony or new fee. Because of the wording of the judicial order, that tenet does not apply until June 1. Couples with civil unions may have a new ceremony, without the fee, should they choose.

Some Illinois county authorities and public officials had expressed varying levels of wariness over the February ruling. Some county clerks for example were wary of the legal implications of the marriages, for example, and asked whether the early start date might complicate their legality in case of divorce. Attorney General Lisa Madigan later said that her office would support couples that might need to sue authorities seeking the right to marry.

Other gay-marriage opponents throughout the state also expressed unease with the forthcoming law. ( Champaign-Urbana ) News-Gazette reported May 22 that the Urbana City Council broke into an argument as to whether the city should recognize "Marriage Fairness Act Awareness Month." The resolution passed 11 to nine, but council member Lloyd Carter, a Democrat, said that he had "sworn on the Bible that I wouldn't betray God. I'm not about to do that. I can't do that. That is my feeling."

Events to mark the occasion

A number of events are planned in the Chicago area to celebrate the law taking effect.

"Equality at The Field"—a celebration of marriage in Illinois—will take place Thursday, May 29, 6-8 p.m., at The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.

Supporters include GLAAD, Halsted Vodka, Egalite wine and Outfielders, the museum's in-house LGBT affinity group.

On May 30, A Church4Me MCC will present a cabaret performance,"At Last ... A Musical Celebration of Marriage Equality in Illinois." The show was created by AChurch4Me's music director, Michael McBride, and features several local cabaret and theater performing artists in Chicago, and will take place 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Atmosphere, 5355 N. Clark St. Proceeds will benefit the programs of AChurch4Me, including its HIV/AIDS prevention ministry, senior support group and ongoing support of the Lakeview Pantry. Additionally, 10 percent of all proceeds will go directly to The Crib, an overnight youth shelter in Lakeview that The Night Ministry runs.

On May 31, winners of the Biggest MINI Wedding Ever contest, sponsored by MINI of Chicago and Center on Halsted, will gather for their all-expense-paid weddings at the Center. Carl Johnson and Tyler Bornheimer as well as Aitor Mendoza and Gary Ward were selected as the winners; each couple got to invite 75 guests for the event.

On June 1 Unity in Chicago will host "Married in Unity," an all-inclusive, non-denominational group wedding ceremony taking place in the Unity garden at located on the church grounds at 1925 W. Thome Ave. in Rogers Park. The garden opens at 4 p.m. and the ceremony begins at 5 p.m.

"One of Unity's guiding principles is Love Honored Here," said Rev. Heidi Alfrey of Unity in a statement. "Unity honors all expressions of love and on June 1 we will celebrate marriage equality with an open ceremony for all who wish to be a part of history. We're inviting anyone who wants to make a commitment with their partner or who would like witness this event. It's going to be an amazing day."

A marriage-equality blessing ceremony will also take place at Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge Ave., in Evanston, June 1, at 1 p.m.

Also on June 1, the United Latino Pride Organization and Lambda Legal will host a "Big Queer Latina/o Wedding" at Chicago Urban Arts Society, 600 W. Cermak Rd., from 1 to 5 p.m. The event additionally commemorates United Latino Pride Week.

"We decided to throw a big wedding open to the community because this victory didn't happen solely thanks to politicians," said Lalo Aguayo, ULP co-chair, in a statement. "It happened because of the countless hours our colleagues at all the major LGBTQQIA and Latina/o organizations spent speaking directly to our leaders in Springfield. It happened because our families and friends engaged in conversations with their peers. This is how we won marriage equality. Hearts and minds are changed one conversation at a time. It only makes sense to celebrate this victory the way Latina/os do: as a family."

A marriage equality celebration will take place June 1, 1-5 p.m., at Kathy Osterman Beach ( a.k.a. Hollywood Beach ), 5800 N. Lake Shore Dr. The event will also feature an interfaith marriage blessing, according to a statement from Ald. Harry Osterman.

"Thousands of people—legislators, community activists, families and citizens—across Illinois and the City of Chicago have been fighting for years for marriage equality. Now is the time to celebrate the victory of marriage for all," said Osterman.

On June 2, Museum of Contemporary Art ( MCA ) Chicago and Equality Illinois will host 15 couples, opening MCA's galleries and sculpture garden for complimentary ceremonies and post-ceremony festivities. The couples will be wed in the museum's Kovler Atrium, with a non-denominational officiate officiating the ceremony. A short celebration will follow for each couple.

Cook County will begin converting civil unions on June 2

From a Cook County Clerk's Office press release

Cook County Clerk David Orr has issued nearly 1,600 marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the last three months. The rest of Illinois will now begin implementing marriage equality on June 1.

"On June 1, we will finally have full marriage equality in Illinois," Orr said. "Same-sex couples who wish to get a marriage license will now be able to have one issued in the county where they live, without having to travel to one of the 16 counties issuing licenses in the wake of the Feb. 21 court ruling."

While the Clerk's Bureau of Vital Records offices — one in downtown Chicago and five throughout suburban Cook County — will not be open on Sunday, the offices will be open on Monday, June 2, to begin converting existing civil unions to marriages for same-sex couples, as well as issuing marriage licenses to couples who plan to have a ceremony.

A couple must get married in the county where they have their marriage license issued.

When the marriage equality law was passed in 2013, lawmakers set June 1, 2014 as the date it would take effect. Clerk Orr began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex all couples on Feb. 21 of this year, immediately following a federal judge's ruling. In those three months, 15 of Illinois' other 101 counties have followed suit.

The judge's February ruling did not address couples who had previously entered into a civil union and wished to convert that civil union into a marriage. Here's what couples need to know about converting their civil union:

Converting means the couple's date of marriage will be backdated to their date of civil union.

Both partners need to appear in person at a Clerk's office to make this change.

You must have your conversion completed in the county where you received your civil union.

There is no charge for the marriage license for couples who already had a civil union.

Marriage certificates, however, cost $15 for the first copy and $4 for each additional copy.

Couples will leave with their new marriage certificate in hand, no ceremony needed.

Couples may want to convert their marriage date to that of their civil union not only for romantic reasons, but also to reap what could be significant tax benefits that come with marriage.

Additionally, Get Covered Illinois, the state's official healthcare marketplace, reminds newlyweds that marriage is a "life event" which allows them to make changes to their health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, all insurance companies must offer the same coverage to all married couples regardless of sex. This means married same-sex couples and their children may now enroll in a plan together in Illinois and may qualify for financial help on the Health Insurance Marketplace. or call (866) 311-1119 for more information. Representatives from Get Covered Illinois also will be on hand at the Clerk's downtown office on June 2 to answer any questions newlyweds might have regarding health insurance.

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