120 couples convert civil unions on first full day of marriage equality

June 2, 2014
Press Release
Vital Records

A dozen same-sex couples were in line Monday morning as Cook County Clerk David Orr opened his downtown vital records office on the first day of marriage equality in Illinois.

“This is the day we have been looking forward to all along,” Orr said, “when any couple, without regard to who they love or where they live, can get married anywhere in Illinois.”

The number of marriage licenses issued in Cook County to same-sex couples grew by 140 Monday, bringing the total to nearly 1,800 since Feb. 21. More than 120 couples also took advantage of their first opportunity to convert their civil union to a marriage on Monday.

Darren Grogan and William Brannin, together 23 years, were the first in line at 7:30 a.m. to convert their civil union to a marriage. The Chicago couple received red roses and a complimentary commemorative certificate.

“We’re celebrating whether we’re first in line or last in line,” said Brannin.

Couples who already have a civil union can get a $65 marriage license free of charge, at any of the clerk’s offices until May 31, 2015.

With their previous domestic partnership and civil union records in hand, Zachary Lamm and Jim Williams came to the clerk’s office to get their third “official document” and “be a part of this moment in history.”

Jan Berger put it another way: “We don’t have to put an asterisk next to being married anymore,” she said after marrying her partner of 17 years, Robin Hochstatter.  

Brenda Lee and S. Lee Edwards. (Bryan Docter/Cook County Clerk's Office)

Brenda Lee and S. Lee Edwards.            
(Bryan Docter/Cook County Clerk's Office)            

Rem Cabrera, whose 2011 civil union with Christopher Schram was converted to a marriage on Monday, said that conversion to marriage is “a validation of our commitment to each other and our ability to express who we are as a family.”

Richard T. Brown and Paul David Wadler, of Chicago, have marriage certificates from several states and Canada. “It makes a difference now that we’re married here in our home,” said Wadler. Marriage gives the couple “just a calming feeling of normalcy,” he said. “And now I’ll be able to say ‘husband’.”

Twenty same-sex couples applied for new marriage licenses in Cook County on Monday. They must have a ceremony in Cook County in the next 60 days.

Since Orr began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Feb. 21, nearly 200 couples from 19 other Illinois counties and about 430 couples from 29 other states, have come to Cook County to get married.

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.

Photos from today's civil union conversions can be found by clicking here.