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Just married: Same-sex couples convert civil unions into marriages

Shelley Bellock, left, an employee in the DuPage County clerk's
office, goes over documents with Eola newlyweds Alicia, center, and
Laurin Atkinson on Monday morning. The pair were among those who came
to Wheaton to formalize their civil unions on the day after gay
marriage became fully legal in Illinois.|  Susan Frick Carlman~Sun-Times Media
Shelley Bellock, left, an employee in the DuPage County clerk's office, goes over documents with Eola newlyweds Alicia, center, and Laurin Atkinson on Monday morning. The pair were among those who came to Wheaton to formalize their civil unions on the day after gay marriage became fully legal in Illinois.| Susan Frick Carlman~Sun-Times Media

Laurin and Alicia Atkinson will celebrate their first anniversary a little early.

The Eola couple’s marriage garnered the legal blessing of the state of Illinois early Monday morning, but the pair say their marital union began last Sept. 7, so that’s their actual wedding date.

Sporting black T-shirts declaring “I love/(heart) my wife,” the two women were among 23 same-sex couples who came to the DuPage County clerk’s office to convert their civil unions into fully recognized marriages on the first business day after state legislation recognizing gay marriage went into effect June 1.

“I made her wear it,” said Alicia, 33, a 911 dispatcher who met her new wife about five years ago through mutual friends, of the similarly themed shirts.

Although income taxes now will take a smaller bite out of the household budget than they used to, the couple’s civil union in 2012 entitled them to health insurance benefits provided to other married people. And in various other ways, their wedding ceremony at Blumen Gardens in Sycamore launched their lifelong union — which made Monday more or less a regular day.

As the newlyweds left the county office building, holding long-stemmed roses provided to the marrying couples, Alicia was off to report for work.

“I’m going to clean the house, mow the lawn,” said Laurin, 29, with a smile and a shrug.

Formalizing the Atkinsons’ marriage — an option available for the next 12 months to all who are in a civil union in Illinois — was Shelley Bellock, a member of the county clerk’s staff who also did the paperwork when Alicia and the former Laurin Fabry entered that officially sanctioned relationship two years ago. Bellock said as a legal process, the conversion from civil union to marriage is pretty simple.

“It’s a click of a button,” she said.

Rabecca Collin and Dawn Regnier also had wrapped up the process before the banks opened Monday morning. The Willowbrook couple don’t plan to take a wedding trip, saying they did that already — when they entered their civil union a dozen years ago in Vermont.

They also don’t plan for either spouse to change her last name.

“We considered hyphenating them,” said Regnier, 44, who has been with her mate for 16 years.

Otherwise, the two feel every bit as married as they have since 2002. They welcome the fresh affirmation from the state.

“It’s a relief finally to have the legal protections,” said Collin, 37.

On June 28, they’ll gather with family and friends for a reception celebrating their newly bolstered union. For them, the shift in legal status simply affirms something they’ve known for a while.

“We can roll together,” Regnier said.

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