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Local couples in civil unions hoping for marriage rights

Patrick BovJames Darby were among first get civil unilicense Cook County clerk’s office Daley Center June 2011. |  Sun-Times

Patrick Bova and James Darby were among first to get a civil union license at the Cook County clerk’s office in the Daley Center in June 2011. | Sun-Times Library

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Updated: April 29, 2013 11:54AM



James Darby spent four years in the U.S. Navy and can be buried at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in southwest suburban Elwood.

Patrick Bova, Darby’s partner of 49 years, cannot, although spouses are eligible to be buried alongside veterans at national cemeteries.

Darby and Bova united in a civil union ceremony June 2, 2011, the first day possible under Illinois law, but don’t share the same rights as married couples under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a title Darby can’t quite wrap his head around.

“I’ve never understood why marriage had to be defended,” Darby said. “A marriage should be able to stand on itself.”

Darby, 81, is keeping an eye on Wednesday’s Supreme Court arguments and says he’s “pleased that at least it’s at the forefront.”

The challenge to DOMA before the U.S. Supreme Court involves an 83-year-old New York woman who sued to fight a federal estate tax bill of $363,000 when her partner of 44 years died in 2009.

“...My partner and I have been together 49½ years, 50 years in July,” Darby, a retired teacher said. “It would be nice to get married and get some of those 1,100 rights that come to married folk.”

“I’m a veteran, and I’d like to have all the same rights that everybody in this country have,” Darby added.

Darby and Bova, met while studying at the University of Chicago, and the Hyde Park couple are active in same-sex marriage lobbying.

In fact, Darby’s name is on the Illinois lawsuit on behalf of 16 same-sex couples and their children — seeking the freedom to marry.

Downstate in Springfield, Bert Morton and his partner of 30 years, Lee Korty, also are keeping watch.

“I’m actually hopeful on DOMA,” Morton said. “I really do believe we’re getting to a tipping point. People are realizing what a stupid thing it is. Let’s get over it. Let’s fix the budget. Let’s start working on other things. We’ve used this as a wedge issue for too long.”

Before civil unions were legalized in Illinois, Korty wasn’t allowed to be by Morton’s bedside after he suffered a heart attack: “You can imagine having been with somebody for a long time and then going to the hospital and suddenly having to say, ‘I’m single.’ That’s part of our story.”

Despite the hope some same-sex couples have about Washington talks, others think a Supreme Court ruling to strike DOMA could open a can of worms.

“It’s somewhat of a schizophrenic position for the government to take. If they don’t think it’s constitutional, why are they enforcing it?,” Paul Linton, special counsel at the Thomas More Society, said. “If they don’t think it’s constitutional, don’t enforce it. But by saying they’re going to enforce it, they’re inviting challenges to DOMA.”



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