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Straight couples opt for civil unions to show solidarity with gays

Updated: December 21, 2011 12:45AM

Lisa Berube, 27, and her spouse Matt Churilla, 29, opted for a civil union license when they said “I do” at Chicago City Hall this year in a show of “solidarity” with gay couples across Illinois who aren’t legally allowed to get married.

“Part of the reason we chose a civil union over a marriage or over a marriage license was to show solidarity,” Berube said. “It was important for us to be able to define family relationships on our own terms. Marriage didn’t do that for us. Marriage seemed more exclusionary.”

Berube and Churilla, who live in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, are among a small fraction of opposite sex couples who obtained civil union licenses in Cook County when the new statewide law allowing civil unions kicked in June 1. County Clerk David Orr’s office, which issues marriage and civil union licenses, launched a survey in September to find out why the couples – who can legally get married – opted for civil unions.

Berube participated in the fall survey involving a member of 46 out of 87 heterosexual couples who had taken out civil union licenses at the time. She was among the bulk of respondents – 12 – who offered the No. 1 reason for obtaining a marriage license: “fairness” and “solidarity with the gay community.”

The second most common answer was “obtaining benefits,” according to the clerk’s office.

In the first six months civil unions were available - June 1 - Nov. 30 - the clerk’s office issued 1,856 civil union licenses, including 138 to opposite-sex couples.

During that same period statewide, 3,729 couples obtained civil union licenses, according to according to Equality Illinois, a gay and lesbian rights group that’s tracking county-by-county numbers.

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