Same-sex couples line up for marriage licenses
URBANA — The water slides at area pools weren't the only places with long lines on a hot Sunday afternoon.
When Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten opened the doors to his office at 1 p.m., he found dozens of people lined up outside, patiently waiting to come in.
They were all same-sex couples who had come to the Brookens Administrative Center to get their marriage licenses.
While Champaign County has been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since February, Sunday was the first day under state law that couples who had previously been issued civil-union licenses could have them converted into marriage licenses.
Knowing that there would be a big demand for these conversions, Hulten opened his office from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday to process the paperwork and present the marriage licenses.
And couples continued to arrive as Hulten and his staff did their work. He said the line didn't clear until about 2:45 p.m.
"Everybody seemed to be in a pretty good mood," he said.
By the end of the afternoon, 41 couples who had walked into Hulten's office as part of civil unions walked out with their marriage licenses in hand.
"We also had a 42nd couple who was there just to get a marriage license," Hulten said.
While both the civil-union and marriage licenses cost $75, Hulten said there was no charge to convert the civil-union documents into marriage licenses.
"And the marriage date will be listed as the date of the original civil union," he said.
Not all of the couples on hand in Urbana had received their civil-union licenses in Champaign County.
"We had some people who came here from other counties because those county clerk's offices didn't open on Sunday for this occasion," Hulten said.
Hulten said he had five staff members on hand to process the marriage licenses.
"I tried to help out the best I could without getting in the way," Hulten said with a smile.
Hulten said there were no similar long lines when he first began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in February.
"Of course, in that case, we started issuing the licenses without any prior advance notice," he said.
Hulten's office had issued a total of 80 same-sex marriage licenses prior to this weekend. With the new additions, Champaign County is now up to 122 same-sex couples who have been issued those licenses.
Hulten said he expects more couples to convert their civil-union licenses to marriage licenses in the coming weeks and months.
"We have issued a grand total of 210 civil-union licenses in three years," Hulten said.
Those couples still with civil-union licenses have until May 31, 2015, to get them converted to marriage licenses with the fee waived, he said.
The couples need to come in person with identification, and they must bring proof of their civil union, he said.