Heterosexual couples who have obtained civil unions in Cook County cite fairness or "solidarity with the gay community" as the number one reason to choose a civil union over marriage, according to a new survey conducted by Clerk David Orr's office.
Twelve of 46 respondents, or 26 percent, cited political or ideological reasons such as equality and inclusiveness when asked why they opted for a civil union when they could legally marry. Obtaining benefits was the second most common answer, volunteered by nine of 46 -- or 20 percent of -- respondents.
"Some heterosexual couples are clearly making a statement when they are civilly united rather than married," Clerk David Orr said. "One respondent put it best when she said this decision was in solidarity with the gay community until they also have the option of getting married."
A total of 87 heterosexual couples obtained civil union licenses from the Clerk's office between June 1 and Sept. 19, 2011. During that same time period, 1,383 same-sex couples obtained civil union licenses in Cook County.
An unpaid student intern working for the Clerk's office conducted the telephone survey in September to explore why opposite-sex couples, who could legally marry, would choose a civil union over marriage. One partner from 46 of the 87 couples was reached, or a 53 percent response rate.
Respondents ranged in age from 19 to 74. Twenty respondents were women and 26 were men. All but nine were white.
The seven-question survey consisted of six "yes" or "no" questions and the open-ended question about why they chose a civil union.
In response to "yes" or "no" questions, 59 percent of respondents said that needing medical benefits for themselves or their children played a role in obtaining a civil union; eleven of 46 said religious or personal convictions against marriage influenced their choice.
When asked, "Are you still planning on getting married at some point?," 38 percent of men and 65 percent of women said "yes."
Full survey results can be found in the report "Opposite-Sex Civil Unions: Motives for Not Marrying."
In the first six months of civil unions, from June 1 to Nov. 30, the Cook County Clerk's office issued 1,856 civil union licenses. Of those, 138 licenses were issued to opposite-sex couples.