For dozens of couples, the wait is finally over.
Thirty-two same-sex couples gathered with family and friends Thursday at Wrigley Square in Millennium Park to be united on the first day of civil union ceremonies in Illinois.
"It's a historic day, and it's a beautiful Chicago day," said Honorable James Snyder, president of the Alliance of Illinois Judges, who officiated the "Unions in the Park" ceremonies along with other members of the Alliance of Illinois Judges.
Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed the civil union bill into law earlier in the year, attended the ceremonies. "This was one of the most important bills Illinois has passed in anyone's memory," he said. "There are all kinds of families in Illinois, but we are all the family of Illinois."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel also was on hand to witness the historic event and confirm that city workers are now able to add their civil union partners to their medical benefits.
"It has been a long journey here, and for all those who are about to join in civil union, you have a fruitful journey going forward from the journey that got you to this point," Emanuel told the crowd.
Spectators lined up along Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Washington streets to glimpse the happy couples.
"It's exciting," said Claudia Mercado. "It's more recognition, more recognition from our state, and I feel more secure being a parent ... that we're going to be able to have some more rights."
"This has been a long, long road. So many activists have worked in this state to get us to this day," said Janean Watkins, first in line Wednesday with Lakeesha Harris to get their civil union license. Watkins and Harris have been together for more than 10 years and raised six kids together.
June 1 marked the first day that couples could apply for civil union licenses in the state of Illinois, now the sixth state to recognize civil unions. More than 200 civil union licenses were issued in Cook County on June 1.
Six couples wasted no time, lining up and tying the knot just after midnight outside the Cook County Clerk's Office downtown.
The Millennium Park event was hosted by The City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues and The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in partnership with the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, Lambda Legal, Equality Illinois and the Alliance of Illinois Judges.