Cook County's Domestic Partnership Registry starts Oct. 1

Wed. September 10, 2003 12:00 AM

Couples can sign up at Clerk's office

Chicago, IL - Same-sex couples living in Chicago and suburban Cook County can formally document their partnerships beginning Oct. 1, said Cook County Clerk David Orr whose office will administer the program.

Cook County's Domestic Partnership Registry will establish an official record of same-sex relationships and will provide each couple with a domestic partnership certificate stating that they have registered with the county.

"The registry officially recognizes same-sex couples who share a family life in a committed relationship," Orr said. "It's important that the county send a message that it acknowledges and appreciates the value and contributions of all of its citizens."

Although the registry does not create any new legal rights, it is intended to make it easier to obtain insurance and other benefits from companies that offer them to partners of gay and lesbian employees. It also standardizes and helps define a domestic partnership.

"Ceremonies are an important part of peoples' lives," said Commissioner Mike Quigley, who sponsored the ordinance that created the registry. "It is significant that Cook County gives official recognition of these relationships."

According to the ordinance, one or both partners must either reside in Cook County or be employed in the county. Both partners must also be at least 18 years old and share a common household.

To apply, both partners must show up together in person at the Cook County Clerk's downtown office (118 N. Clark St./lower level), show valid photo identification (driver's license, state identification, etc.) and pay a $30 cash filing fee.

In addition, they must complete and sign a legal affidavit declaring - among other things - that they are in "a close and committed relationship of mutual financial and emotional support and intend to remain in such a relationship."

The Cook County Commissioners approved the county's domestic partnership registry ordinance on July 1. Cook County joins 49 cities and eight counties that have established domestic partnership registries, including Oak Park in 1997, the only other government jurisdiction in Illinois to do so.

California, Connecticut and Hawaii have statewide registries as does the District of Columbia. Vermont allows same-sex couples to take part in civil unions.

Cook County has offered health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of county employees since 1999.

For more information about the county's registry, call (312) 603-5584.