CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cook County Clerk’s office this week announced that it is poised to issue 15,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples by the end of the year – now six years after marriage equality became the law in Illinois.
As of Nov. 15, the Clerk’s office had issued 14,860 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. With an average of about 114 same-sex couples per month in 2019 getting marriage licenses in Cook County, the Clerk’s office expects it will surpass the 15,000 mark by the end of the year.
“The fight for marriage equality was not an easy one. LGBT activists and allies have been fighting for a long time – some of whom are here today after years of work, lobbying, legislating and support for this basic human right many people take for granted,” County Clerk Karen Yarbrough said in a news release this week. “Today we look back to celebrate those who fought the good fight and turn our heads towards the future as we continue to safeguard Cook County – and all of Illinois – from bigotry and discrimination.”
Former Gov. Pat Quinn came to the George W. Dunne County Administration Building Tuesday morning to acknowledge the milestones. Also present were activists including Michael O’Connor, Ben Montgomery, and Richard Streetman; plaintiffs in marriage equality lawsuits Pat Ewert, James Darby, and Patrick Bova; and current and former state legislators.
Quinn emphasized the historical import of the legislation that made marriage equality the law in Illinois in 2013.
“We were the only state in the Midwest where the Legislature, through the elected process, was addressing this issue of marriage equality,” Quinn said.
Ewert and her late wife, Vernita Gray, were the first same-sex couple to marry legally in Illinois.
“Vernita used to say that when she was coming out, that the word ‘gay’ and ‘marriage’ were never going to be used in the same sentence,” Ewert said. “She had no idea at the time that she would be first, with me, and it was an honor.”
Ewert said while Gray survived only a few months after they legally wed, it made a major difference when she introduced herself as Gray’s wife when settling Gray’s affairs.
County Clerk’s office Deputy Director of Communications James Scalzitti emphasized that celebrating milestones such as the Clerk’s office did this week is important.
“A lot of people, whether they’re supporters or they don’t approve of same-sex marriage, they say, ‘Well, why do you need to celebrate 15,000, 18,000? Why do you need to talk about six years since marriage was signed, or seven years – whatever, what difference does it make?’” Scalzitti said. “And I’ll say, it makes plenty of difference. It matters a lot to people who’ve had this right, like many rights, denied to them. It makes a big difference to people who throughout their existence have been bullied, beaten, and buried because of who they are and who they love. It makes a big difference to people who fought in the streets, in the statehouse, and in the courts for the right to marry.”
The Clerk’s office also conducted a demographic analysis of the same-sex couples who have gotten marriage licenses. The analysis noted that the average age of same-sex newlyweds was 40 years old between 2014 and 2016, but it dropped to 37 between 2017 and 2019.
A total of 30 percent of couples came from outside of Illinois in 2014, but that figure dropped to 10 percent in 2019.
The top Chicago ZIP codes where same-sex couples who married through in Cook County lived were 60640 (Uptown) with 972, 60660 (Edgewater) with 645, 60657 (Lakeview) with 574, 60613 (Lakeview) with 541, 60626 (Rogers Park) with 508, 60618 (North Center/Avondale) with 322, 60625 (Lincoln Square/Albany Park) with 310, 60647 (Bucktown/Logan Square) with 298, 60641 (Portage Park) with 183, and 60608 (Pilsen/Bridgeport) with 178.
Among suburbs, Evanston had the greatest number of same-sex couples married in Cook County at 245, followed by Oak Park with 222, Berwyn with 136, Des Plaines with 107, Cicero with 104, Schaumburg with 98, Palatine with 91, Skokie with 77, Forest Park with 68, and Streamwood with 59.