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On June 1, 2011, more than 400 people took their places in line. Among them were parents, veterans, business owners, teachers, and senior citizens. Some had arrived hours before dawn. All were there to receive, through offices of the Cook County clerk, some of the first same-sex civil union licenses granted by the State of Illinois.
The law, signed on January 31, does not offer marriage equality for gay couples. Federal benefits extended to spouses (such as joint filing for income taxes) do not fall under its umbrella. But for the first time, rights recognized by Illinois for married heterosexual couples—such as the right to visit or make decisions for a hospitalized partner or the right to inherit a partner’s assets after that person’s death—were extended to same-sex couples. Many of the pairs newly united under the law, however, including the six couples pictured on these pages, had made commitments to share their lives together years before.
Interviews were transcribed, condensed, and edited for clarity.
JIM DARBY + PATRICK BOVA (above)
YEARS TOGETHER: 47
I’m a veteran of the Korean War. In the nineties, we would go to Washington every year to meet with Congress to ask them to lift the ban against gay people in the military. And every year, after lobbying, we would go to Congressional Cemetery and do a wreath-laying at the grave of Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, the Air Force sergeant who came out in 1975 on the cover of Time. In 1995, a reverend from Metropolitan Community Churches was there, and I casually asked, “Would you marry us?” She said yes. —JIM DARBY
We gave our vows extemporaneously. We both started to cry—it was very moving. When we were going to get our civil union license, we weren’t as excited about it as 21-year-olds might have been. It’s like launching a different phase of life, and we had been through that already. But everybody else was really excited. It was wonderful. —PATRICK BOVA