Chicago Opens Gay Partner Registry

Wed. October 1, 2003 12:00 AM by

Chicago, IL - Gay and lesbian couples began signing up as registered domestic partners the moment the Cook County Clerk's office opened this morning.

Several couples had lined up before the doors opened at 8:30, some had been there since midnight.

Robert Castillo and John Pennycuff were the first pair to register.

"Besides being partners in loving each other, we are also partners for social change," Castillo told the Chicago Tribune. "I think it's important, even if it's a small step. It's a big day."

By noon, 44 couples had registered their relationships.

"It isn't legalized marriage, but it certainly is an accomplishment," said Julia Salgado, who along with partner Miriam Torrado is raising two young daughters. The couple was among the first to sign up. "It should be seen as a step forward--but not as completion of the journey."

Cook County commissioners voted during the summer to create the registry. ( story) Though not recognized outside the county and the city of Chicago, it will allow gay and lesbian couples to signify their relationships.

The ordinance was sponsored by Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley with the support of 10 other Democratic commissioners.

Quigley said the ordinance will make it easier for such couples to take advantage of the domestic partner benefits offered by many employers.

The certificates could help couples secure health insurance or other benefits that many companies offer domestic partners.

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

But gay activists call the register 'toothless'.

"It's a symbolic gesture, very much appreciated by the community," said Susan Anderson. "This doesn't provide any legal rights at all," Anderson said. "I thank the County Board for doing this, but don't get too safe.

"If people register, they may assume rights they don't have," she said.

Anderson suggests gays and lesbians in committed relationships contact a lawyer to ensure their legal rights as a couple through wills, trusts and other documents.

"Even if it's just a baby step, one inch of a mile, this domestic partnership is still worth doing for the recognition it gives of our relationship," said 71 year old Jim Darby.

He and his partner of 40 years, Patrick Bova, would really like to have the legal equivalent of marriage--something they're not sure they will see in their lifetimes.

To register, couples must be Cook County residents, go in person to the Clerk's office, show valid photo identification and pay a $30 filing fee.

by Steph Smith Newscenter
Chicago Bureau
©® 2003

To apply for the Domestic Partnership Registry, both partners must complete the following steps:
- Appear together at the Clerk's downtown office and present valid photo identification with proof of age (e.g. driver's license, state identification, passport, etc.)
- Fill out and sign a legal affidavit.
- Pay $30 per couple (cash or money order only).

The legal affidavit, which serves as the application form, states that:
- You and your partner must be at least 18 years old.
- You and your partner must share a common household.
- You and your partner must live in Cook County, or either you or your partner must work in Cook County.
- You and your partner must be competent to enter into a contract.
- You and your partner must maintain a close and committed relationship of mutual financial and emotional support and intend to remain in such a relationship.
- Neither you nor your partner is legally married.
- You and your partner are not related by blood.
- If you have been registered in a domestic partnership, you may not enter into another until at least 30 days after legally terminating the previous partnership.
- You and/or your partner must officially terminate the partnership if the above statements no longer apply.
- You and your partner must fill out and sign a Domestic Partnership Affidavit affirming the above statements are true and correct.

Upon filing the Domestic Partnership Affidavit and paying the required fee, the Clerk's office will issue a Domestic Partnership Certificate to the couple. Each couple will also receive two wallet-sized Domestic Partnership Certificate Cards, stating that their partnership is registered with Cook County.

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.