Couples, supporters mark civil union history

Couples, supporters mark civil union history

URBANA — About 10 same-sex couples and another 50 or so supporters turned out Wednesday morning in Urbana to take part in and witness history: the issuance of civil union certificates for the first time in Illinois.

"It's history. That's why we took her out of school," Michelle Chappell of Champaign said as she waited for her license to be issued. With her was her partner of 20 years, Michelle Franke, and their 8-year-old daughter Rose Chappell-Franke, who also raised her hand to swear to the authenticity of her parents' application.

By virtue of their number of years together, the women were given the courtesy slot of No. 2 in line at Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten's office when it opened for business at 8 a.m. The couples came up with the idea of having those together the longest be first in line.

Today is the first day that civil union licenses may be issued. Because of the required 24-hour waiting period, the first civil union ceremonies cannot be conducted until Thursday. Four are scheduled at the Champaign County Courthouse.

First in line were Michael Hogue and Bruce Rainey of Champaign. Together for 22 years, the men said they felt a little nervous as cameras snapped and rolled, documenting their small part in Champaign County history.

"There are a lot of friendly faces here," said Hogue, who works down the hall from the county clerk's office at the Regional Planning Commission.

He and Rainey are planning to be united by Judge Arnold Blockman at the courthouse Thursday.

Their application process took about 10 minutes.

Applicants for civil union certificates have been able to pre-register online. About 14 did so, Hulten said. They then had to come in, pay the $4 fee, present identification, proof their information to make sure it was correct, and swear it was true.

On Wednesday morning, Hulten had all hands on deck to accommodate those couples who wanted to get their certificates on the first day they could. He reserved the much cooler county board room, where they waited and enjoyed cake courtesy of the Champaign law firm of Nally, Bauer, Feinen & Mann.

"It's really exciting to be in a state that is making this leap forward and changing the face of what marriage looks like," said Franke. She and Chappell are going to be united in a ceremony later this month in a church. They had another ceremony 14 years ago.

Both women work at the University of Illinois. Having access to each other's retirement benefits, to making health care decisions for each other and all the other legal protections that go with the recognition of their partnership are important to them. But they have another reason.

"Rose grows up knowing her parents are legally joined. This gives us that normalcy, just like everybody else," Franke said.

"Almost," Chappell added. "Today's not a marriage but it's close."

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Mike wrote on June 01, 2011 at 11:06 pm

It's about damn time!

What a fantastic world it will be when the religious fuddy-duddies finally get over themselves and let folks that want to get married, get married.

Congrats to everyone today that have waited so long for this to come about, and good luck in the future!

awiste wrote on June 02, 2011 at 10:06 am

Wonderful news! A step in the right direction for equality among all people.