Couples celebrate civil unions during ceremony at Chicago History Museum

Sat. June 4, 2011 6:59 AM by News Staff

unite with pride at the chicago history museum

photo credit // frank failing
Chicago, IL - Nearly 50 couples celebrated the enactment of civil unions in Illinois and the beginning of Pride Month in Chicago at a historic outdoor community civil ceremony just two days after the civil union law took effect in Illinois.

"To watch couples with children walk down the aisle as they took their public vows and are now legally bound to one another was mind blowing," said Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA).

TCRA hosted 54 couples as part of Unite with Pride: A Community Celebration on the picturesque "Uihlein Plaza" at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark.

Following the cocktail reception, The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus performed for the crowd that had gathered to support their families and friends. The Honorable Judge Mary Trew officiated the mass civil union ceremony and blessings were offered by eight faith leaders. Rocco J. Claps, Director of the Illinois Department of Human Rights, offered the reception toast.

Martinez told that response to the event was marked with a great deal of excitement and anticipation.

"It's one of the most moving times in my life to watch the events this week," said Martinez. "I have never before felt so much pride for my community and our achievements."

This event also served as a fundraiser for the TCRA, an Illinois statewide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender advocacy group, and their Families United Project.

"We at The Civil Rights Agenda will continue to work on behalf of the LGBT families and people of Illinois to ensure full equality," said Martinez.

Since Illinois civil union law took effect on Wednesday, there have been a number of civil union-type events including Chicago's "Unions in the Park" on Thursday in Millennium Park.

In Bolingbrook, hosted an event to commemorate the occasion in conjunction with a fundraiser for the It Gets Better Project.

Civil unions insure a broad range of rights, including hospital visitation rights, right to inherit even if the deceased didn't leave a will, and right to access spousal health insurance benefits provided by employers.

Illinois will be the sixth state to allow civil unions. Hawaii and Delaware have passed civil union laws that have not yet been enacted. Civil unions are not recognized by the federal government.

Related: View full photo gallery from Unite with Pride