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More Than 3,700 Civil Unions Issued In Illinois Since June

CHICAGO (CBS) -- More than 3,700 couples committed to one another through civil unions in the first six months since Illinois legalized them.

Civil union licenses were issued to a total of 3,729 couples statewide between June 1 and Nov. 30, according to the statewide gay rights group Equality Illinois.

At least one license was issued in 90 of the 102 Illinois counties.

But those 3,729 couples were not the only ones whose civil unions were recognized, Equality Illinois said. Same-sex couples who entered a marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership in another jurisdiction automatically had their relationships recognized as a civil union in Illinois on June 1.

"That so many couples secured licenses in the first six months after they became available on June 1 demonstrated the importance that families placed on the protections it provided," Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive officer of Equality Illinois, said in a news release. "The fact that the figure grew to 3,729 civil unions licenses in the half year indicates a strong, ongoing desire for same-sex families to not only secure the legal recognition of government and the affirmation of their relationship from employers, family and friends but also the equal rights that civil unions guarantee."

A total of 1,878 of the licenses, or about 50.4 percent, were issued in Cook County. A total of 658, or 17.6 percent, were issued in the collar counties of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will, and 1,193, or about 32 percent, were issued in the rest of Illinois.

"As we can see from these numbers and the range of locales, same-sex couples make their homes in all parts of Illinois," Randy Hannig, Director of Public Policy for Equality Illinois said. "This recognition will have significant implications as state and local public officials deal with family law issues and members of Congress consider the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act."

Ironically, on the opposite side of the political spectrum, the legalization of same-sex civil unions in Illinois has been cited as one of several reasons why two downstate lawmakers have issued legislation to have Cook County kicked out of the state.

The legislation, proposed last month by state Reps. Bill Mitchell (R-Decatur) and Adam Brown (R-Decatur), expresses a view that Cook County dominates all politics and lawmaking and Springfield despite not sharing downstaters' "firmly seated views."

Besides the legalization of civil unions, Brown blamed Chicago Democrats for the state income tax increase and the abolition of the death penalty, and he called them all "liberal policies (that) are an insult to the traditional values of downstate families," the Decatur Tribune reported last month.

Illinois' civil union law was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn in late January in a ceremony attended by about 1,000 people at the Chicago Cultural Center. The law went into effect June 1.

The law gives gay and lesbian couples official recognition from the state and many of the same rights that accompany opposite-sex marriage, including the right to inherit.

Brown also elaborated further on his complaints about differences in "firmly seated values" in comments to the Decatur Tribune.

He told the paper he blames Chicago Democrats for the state income tax increase, the legalization of same-sex civil unions, and the abolition of the death penalty, which he called "liberal policies (that) are an insult to the traditional values of downstate families."

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