It is official: Same-sex marriage will be legal in Illinois as of June 1.
In the words of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, there is no longer straight or gay marriage, there is only marriage in Illinois.
They are words that resonated with 3,000 or so people crowding the University of Illinois at Chicago forum Wednesday afternoon. They wanted to witness history in the making for themselves.
Gov. Pat Quinn made history Wednesday when he signed Senate Bill 10, legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois. He signed the document on the same desk Abraham Lincoln used to write his first inaugural address.
“In the very beginning of the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln of Illinois said that our nation was conceived in liberty. And he said it’s dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, and that’s really what we’re celebrating today,” he said. “It’s a triumph of democracy.”
The Democrat running for re-election had rock star status Wednesday. His captive audience heaped praise on the deed no politician before him has been able to do — or wanted to do. He and State Rep. Greg Harris received numerous standing ovations. Harris sponsored the bill.
The 45-minute ceremony was filled with a lot of pomp and circumstance — it was a bill signing after all. But it was full of heart, emotion and gratitude. Politicians of Illinois each took their turn to articulate the meaning of this bill to them.
“As a history teacher, I firmly believe that marriage equality is the civil rights issue of our time,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
“History, I think, will show that we got it right on this one,” said Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. “And I just want to end by noting that I’m available to be a flower girl and I’ll even waive the fee!”
But two men stole the show: Jim Darby and his partner of more than 50 years, Patrick Bova. They want to be buried together at Arlington National Cemetary. Bova is a Korean War veteran. They want to live as a couple recognized by the state and even their own families. They want to celebrate the rest of their lives together as a couple. And this ceremony says they can.
“Today is the day when we can look back on our five decades together and say ‘We can finally be newlyweds,'” Darby said.
The signing of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act took place at UIC of all places, because –for the past 2 years–the school has been ranked among the top 25 when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. the president himself saying diversity is central to its mission.