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Long wait over for couples seeking civil unions in Will County

Russ Lipari (left) his partner RSteinacher Plainfield apply for civil unilicense Will County Clerk's Office Joliet Wednesday Jun. 1 2011.

Russ Lipari (left) and his partner Ron Steinacher, of Plainfield, apply for a civil union license at the Will County Clerk's Office in Joliet on Wednesday, Jun. 1, 2011. (Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media)

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Updated: June 1, 2011 11:31PM

Raymond Welsh and Patrick Dalton of Rockdale waited more than an hour Wednesday to become the first couple to sign up for a civil union license in Will County after spending eight years together without the option.

Ever since Welsh heard Illinois had legalized civil unions for same-sex couples, the 27-year-old insisted they should be one of the first to file. So he and Dalton, 29, arrived about 7:15 a.m. and waited outside the Will County office building in Joliet for the county clerk’s office to open at 8:30 a.m.

Welsh said he wanted to be there for the excitement as the law took effect.

“We’ve been together for eight years,” Welsh said, “so it’s been something that, of course, when it became legal, we wanted to do.”

Four other couples joined Welsh and Dalton to sign up for civil union licenses in the first 30 minutes they were available, and the clerks office said at least 17 licenses were processed by the end of the day. The couples laughed and took pictures, excited to take what 28-year-old Diana Braunshausen called “a grateful step.”

She and Sarah Stumpf, 28, said they moved to Romeoville from Bloomington, Ind., partly because they heard civil unions might become legal here. But the couples agreed the fight to legalize full gay marriage isn’t over.

“You can present it any way you want to, but it’s inequal,” said Russ Lipari, 55.

Lipari, who signed up for a civil union license with Ron Steinacher, 56, said the glass was “half full” Wednesday. The couple from Plainfield said they’ve been together for 36 years and had a “pretty big shindig” six years ago. They now plan to have a legal ceremony at the Will County Courthouse.

The civil union licenses become effective one day after they’re issued, meaning ceremonies won’t begin at the courthouse until Thursday at the earliest. The licenses are available at the clerk’s offices in Joliet, Crete, Bolingbrook and Plainfield.

Will County’s licenses cost $4 for now, but county Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots said she wants to raise the fee to $28, which is the cost of a marriage license. Voots said she’ll be asking the Will County Board to raise the fee when it meets June 16.

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