Cook County set to issue 10,000th same-sex marriage license

Tue. August 30, 2016 10:49 AM by Ross Forman

celebrating journey to 10,000

photo credit // twitter/repmikequigley

Celebrating same-sex marriages in Cook County: #JourneyTo10K

Chicago, IL - Cook County Clerk David Orr was joined Monday morning, Aug. 29, by a host of legislative leaders and civil rights groups who were instrumental in bringing marriage equality to Illinois, and others, to celebrate the milestone of near-10,000 marriage licenses which have been issued in Cook County to same-sex couples.

As of Monday morning, the Cook County Clerk's Office had issued 9,990 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Orr was joined at the press conference by State Rep. Greg Harris, who sponsored Illinois' marriage equality bill in the House; State Sen. Heather Steans, who sponsored the Senate bill; Congressman Mike Quigley, who has been a supporter of LGBT equality since his days as a Cook County Commissioner; Ald. Deb Mell, a longtime advocate and activist for marriage equality; and representatives from Lambda Legal, the ACLU of Illinois, and Equality Illinois.

Joining them were notable couples including Jim Darby and Patrick Bova, Brenda Lee and Lee Edwards, Theresa Volpe and Mercedes Santos, and Pat Ewert. Ewert is the widow of Vernita Gray, whose terminal illness was the basis for a judge ruling in November 2013 that they did not have to wait to be married.

Orr and his staff have been chronicling the same-sex marriage licenses issued in Cook Clerk, even carrying a special section on the website en route to the LGBT milestone.

James Scalzitti, the Deputy Communications Director in the Cook County Clerk's Office, told last week that staff members speculate the milestone will be hit around Labor Day, perhaps earlier.

Back in February 2015, on the one-year anniversary of same-sex couples being able to be married in Cook County, Orr's office acknowledged that it then had issued about 6,500 same-sex marriage licenses.

"So we all just started wondering, when we will hit 10,000?" Scalzitti said. "I think we all knew (the milestone) was something worth celebrating, a special occasion to mark how far we've come."

Illinois became the 16th state to embrace full marriage equality in late-2013. Prior to the law taking effect, Cook County became the first in Illinois to allow same-sex couples to wed in February, 2014.

"I'm thrilled that soon my office will issue the 10,000th marriage license to a same-sex couple. We should be proud of this historic milestone, and pleased that as more same-sex couples get their marriage licenses, it will just become more of an ordinary occasion," Orr said. "We can't forget the hard work and efforts (of) so many people – legislators, activists, LGBT organizations, allies, and ordinary people who just wanted to be able to marry the person they love – so that we could get to this point. 

"There's still a lot of work to do, though, to ensure full equality. In states like North Carolina and Utah, government officials can refuse to marry same-sex couples because of religious reasons. That's not fair, and that's not equal. Bigotry remains, and efforts to impede marriage equality continue, just as the discriminatory efforts to limit voting rights, voter registration, women's rights, and pay equity continue. 

"So we can't let our guard down, and we have to keep vigilant in the fight for equality."

Scalzitti confirmed that a special ceremony, and more, will salute the 10K couple, including flowers, gifts from area businesses, and more.

"First of all I can't believe that I am old enough to have been partnered with the love of my life for 20 years. Then the second thing is that, within my lifetime, I have been able to experience registering for domestic partnership, then civil unions, and now marriage," said Mona Noriega, Commissioner of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. "Marriage for me is full recognition of the significance of our relationship to each other, but also demands and gives permission to our family and friends to recognize the importance of our commitment to each other—in terms that are the same for all—marriage."

Scalzitti said Cook County peaked at about 270 same-sex marriage licenses in a month-span, but now averages about 150. June, July and December were the busiest months.

"Issuing marriage licenses is one of the most enjoyable parts of his job, David has often said," Scalzitti said.

About 92 percent of the same-sex marriage licenses issued in Cook County in 2016 have gone to Illinois couples, Scalzitti said. Those traveling to Cook County for the license are mostly from nearby states, such as Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan, he added.

The average age of those same-sex getting married in Cook County is about 37, which actually has gone down a few years since marriage equality began in Illinois; and about 52 percent are gay men, as opposed to 48 percent female, Scalzitti said.