40 Couples Participate in Group Wedding to Honor Marriage Equality in Illinois

Sunday marked the first day all 102 counties in Illinois could issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Forty couples, both straight and same-sex, gathered together for a group wedding ceremony in Chicago Sunday to honor marriage equality in Illinois.

Sunday marked the first day all 102 counties in Illinois could issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and couples with civil unions could convert to marriage.

The all-inclusive, non-denominational group wedding, which took place Sunday evening at Unity Garden in Rogers Park, was one of many celebrations around Chicago Sunday.

"One of Unity's guiding principles is Love Honored Here," said Rev. Heidi Alfrey of Unity in a statement. "Unity honors all expressions of love and on June 1 we will celebrate marriage equality with an open ceremony for all who wish to be a part of history.”

“It’s a historic day that so many people around the country and especially in illinois worked so hard to achieve,” said Jennifer Henry, who married her partner at the Sunday ceremony. “To have the combination that we’re standing here in a garden in unity is absolutely amazing.”

Straight couples also participated in the wedding to celebrate the day and support marriage equality.

"For me it was a combination of renewing the vows with my wife and also supporting this whole function of equal marriage through Illinois and hopefully through the country,” said Duane Barnes, who renewed his vows with his wife of 29 years.

Several Illinois counties have already been issuing marriage licenses after a federal court ruling in February, however, many still consider Sunday a historical day for the state.

“Today is a special day and I thank everyone who worked so hard to pass marriage equality and put Illinois on right side of history,” Quinn said in a statement. “All couples across Illinois can now receive the rights and protections under the sacred vow of marriage. The Land of Lincoln has always been a place to embrace all people and today we stand as an example for the rest of the nation.”

Cook County Clerk David Orr said he has already issued nearly 1,600 marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the last three months, though officials said the office will not be open Sunday and will resume issuing marriage licenses Monday.

Wedding planners said the industry is seeing a major boost as excitement over marriage equality booms.

“We’ve seen a huge uptick already,” said Tracy Baim, owner of Keith House in Chicago’s South Loop. “Really it’s a pent up demand. We have people together 30-40 years that never had a chance to get married.”

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