As Donn Bofani stepped up to the counter at the Kane County clerk's office Monday morning he carried a memento of commitments made 43 years ago. In his left shirt pocket, over his heart, Bofani concealed a photo of himself and Jerry McManaman when they first got together. In the photo, the Elgin couple wore white T-shirts emblazoned with the word "Advocate" in bold black letters. They were gay men advocating for equal rights.
Bofani left the clerk's office with the county's first same-sex marriage license in one hand, that old photo in the other and McManaman still by his side.
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"This means stability, security, recognition and equal rights," Bofani said of the license. "A civil union just isn't the same thing. I never thought I'd see this day. I remember the first pride parade we went to in Chicago. The whole street wasn't even blocked. Now you go and there's more than a million people."
There was no parade of same-sex couples waiting for licenses Monday morning. About half a dozen couples waited for employees to open the doors just before 8:30 a.m. Whe then county started issuing civil union licenses three years ago, the line stretched out the door and down the sidewalk. County Clerk Jack Cunningham said Monday night 19 people got same-sex marriage licenses.
Many of the couples on hand Monday morning never joined that line for a civil union. Tracy Simon and Michelle Selander, of South Elgin, always knew they would hold out for full marriage. It wasn't always an easy wait. The couple had a daughter, Teagan, in 2007. Though a couple for 17 years, they still had to enlist a lawyer and obtain medical and durable power of attorney rights. It was a safeguard against medical, financial and legal nightmares married couples don't often worry about. The disparities in rights was enough to fuel at least one discussion between the couple about going to New York or another state that recognized gay marriages. They decided not to. Now Simon and Selander will be married Saturday in their home state, where their family and friends live.
"Our daughter is so excited," Simon said. "I dropped her off at school this morning, and she told everyone her mommies were getting married, and they were getting the license today."
No protesters awaited the recipients of Kane County's first same-sex marriage licenses. Instead, red cupcakes with white frosting awaited them when they walked out the doors. Amy and Steve Frankel came to the office with several containers of goodies. The Aurora couple believe in gay rights so strongly they postponed their own marriage until this past December when it was clear their gay friends would be able to do the same.
"It didn't seem right to us to take advantage of the benefits and the title when there were so many other people who couldn't," Amy Frankel said. "So we're just here to celebrate."