Report: One Year of Marriage Equality in Cook County

Date: 
February 18, 2015
Press Release
Vital Records

6,508 same-sex couples married in Cook County 

More than 6,500 same-sex couples were married in Cook County in the first year of marriage equality, according to a report released Wednesday by Cook County Clerk David Orr.

“As we mark the one-year anniversary of marriage equality in Cook County, we celebrate more than the historic day I began issuing licenses to same-sex couples,” Orr said. “We also celebrate every day that loving couples have been able to share in this most basic right, a right that was denied to so many for too long.”

On Feb. 21, 2014, a federal judge cleared the way for Clerk Orr to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples who planned to marry in Cook County – more than three months before marriage equality took effect throughout Illinois.

The 6,508 same-sex couples represent a diversity of race, geography, age, education and profession. For example:

  • 14% of the spouses reported being Hispanic, 13% were African-American, and 4% were Asian;
  • At least one license was issued to a couple residing in every Chicago zip code, except for two zip codes (60707 and 60827).
  • At least one license was issued to a couple residing in 113 of 127 suburban Cook County municipalities;
  • Spouses ranged in age from 17 to 93, with an average age of 42;
  • More than 80% of the spouses reported either attending or graduating from college;
  • Hundreds of occupations were reported, with the most popular being: teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses and members of the U.S. military.

The data compiled for the demographics, maps and charts includes 6,450 licenses issued through Feb. 9, 2015. An additional 58 licenses were issued between Feb. 10 and Feb. 17, but are not included in the analysis. For comparison, about 32,000 marriage licenses are issued to opposite-sex couples annually.

About 66 percent of the licenses were issued to same-sex couples from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. However, more than 1,800 couples traveled from other states to marry here, particularly from Midwestern and Southern states where same-sex marriage licenses are not issued.

“While marriage equality has spread like a tidal wave across the country, it needs to be recognized in every state,” Orr said. “Couples from 41 other states – big and small, urban and rural – have applied for licenses in Cook County. And as we’ve seen recently in Alabama, Arkansas and Kansas, the fight for equality is not yet over.”

AGE: Same-sex spouses have been as young as 17 and as old as 93. The average age is 42. Those who have converted their civil unions to marriages were slightly older than those who did not have a civil union. People 60 years old or older accounted for 1,214 of these newlyweds.

GENDER: More couples are male (52%) than female (48%).

CIVIL UNIONS: 23 percent of all same-sex marriage licenses were issued to couples who previously had a civil union. These 1,491 couples were allowed to convert their civil union to a marriage, free of charge, and backdate their license to the date of their original civil union. Of the conversion licenses, 771 couples had a civil union that dated to 2011, including 323 couples who were issued a civil union in June 2011 – the first month of civil unions in Cook County.

RACE: Of those who provided information on their race, 68 percent are Caucasian; 14 percent Hispanic; 13 percent African-American; 4 percent Asian; and 1 percent listed “other.” 

EDUCATION: More than 80 percent of spouses either attended or graduated from college, with 25.3 percent having earned a post-graduate degree or PhD. 

OCCUPATIONS: Hundreds of occupations are represented by the same-sex couples who have been married in Cook County. The most common occupations include: teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses and members of the U.S. military. Other occupations represented include: police officers (91), truck drivers (44), factory workers (44), firefighters (16), farmers (6), steel workers (5), bricklayers (4), and welders (4). Retired persons account for 753 of these newlyweds.

RESIDENCE: About half of all of these same-sex couples were residents of Chicago. The other half were divided among suburban Cook County, other Illinois counties, other states and other countries.

CHICAGO: Nearly half (3,073 or 47.7 percent) of the Cook County marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples who reside in Chicago. Eight zip codes were home to more than 100 couples, and all but two Chicago zip codes were home to at least one. Residents of five Chicago lakefront zip codes (60640, 60626, 60660, 60613, 60657) accounted for 20 percent of all same-sex marriage licenses. 

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SUBURBAN COOK: About 18.5 percent of all same-sex marriage licenses, or 1,191, were issued to couples who live in suburban Cook County. Marriage licenses have been issued to residents of 113 suburban Cook County municipalities, with Evanston (142) and Oak Park (119) leading the license tally.


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OTHER ILLINOIS COUNTIES: 360 same-sex couples from other Illinois counties came to Cook County to get married, accounting for 5.6 percent of all couples. Many traveled here before marriage equality took effect across Illinois on June 2.


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OTHER STATES: Same-sex couples from 41 other states and Puerto Rico traveled to Cook County for a marriage license. They represented more than 1,800 same-sex couples, or 28 percent.


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Of those from out of state, the greatest number were from Michigan (319), Indiana (275), and Ohio (222). Same-sex couples from cities outside Illinois include those from: Columbus, Ohio (41); Cincinnati, Ohio (35); Atlanta, Georgia (18); Dallas, Texas (18), and Detroit, Michigan (17).

As of Feb. 9, 2015, same-sex marriages were prohibited in 13 states. Analysis of the Cook County same-sex marriage data finds that couples travel to Cook County when they cannot marry at home, but the number of same-sex couples coming to Cook County drops when equality is won in their home state. For example:

  • Before Oct. 7, 2014, when same-sex marriage became legal in Indiana, 209 same-sex Hoosier couples crossed the state line to get married in Cook County; since then, 65 have.
  • Prior to Oct. 6, 2014, when same-sex marriage became legal in Wisconsin, 86 same-sex Badger State couples got married in Cook County; since then, five have.
  • Before April 14, 2014, when a federal judge ordered Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages from other states, 21 Ohio couples had been married in Cook County. Since then, 201 Ohioans have come to Cook County to be married.

OTHER COUNTRIES: A handful of couples traveled internationally to marry here. Fourteen couples came from as far away as China, Russia, Spain, England, Germany, Austria, and Thailand to get married in Cook County.

DATE OF ISSUANCE: While the Clerk’s office issued more licenses to same-sex couples in June 2014 – 1,499 total licenses or 23 percent of all licenses – the pace was steady throughout the year. The busiest day for marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples was June 2, 2014, the day that marriage equality went into effect for the entire state of Illinois. A total of 177 couples obtained marriage licenses on that day.

Note: The data compiled for the demographics, maps and charts includes 6,540 licenses issued through Feb. 9, 2015. An additional 58 licenses were issued between Feb. 10 and Feb. 17, but are not included in the analysis.

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