Marriage equality in Illinois: the new normal

Jones staff members take advantage of new Illinois law for marriage equality

FullSizeRenderIt seemed unfathomable for many same-sex couples to walk down the street holding hands, much less to actually get married.  The inability and ability for same-sex couples to get married has been a controversial topic in the United States for years.  When Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, it set off a ripple throughout the country.  Massachusetts became the sixth jurisdiction worldwide after the Netherlands, Belgium, and Canadian provinces Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec to legalize marriage equality.  Last year, Illinois passed the Equal Marriage Bill, which became effective on June 1, 2014.  Among the more than 5,000 gay couples in Illinois who were married after the law was passed were three Jones employees.  JoAnne Troesch, Katie Merva, and Jim DuBois all took advantage after the long-awaited bill to pass.

“We knew the law was going to pass,” said social science teacher Jim DuBois.  “We waited until the whole state was allowed to get married which was June. That was a Sunday, so we waited until Monday, June 2 to get married at the Cook County Courthouse when it was open.”

“I had asked her to do a civil union years ago and she turned me down,” said JoAnne Troesch, who is the Technology Coordinator. “She would not get married until the law was passed because to her it made no sense.”

Katie Merva and Melissa at Revolution Brewery on Oct. 25, 2014.
Jim DuBois and Manny at the Cook County Courthouse on June 2, 2014.
Audrey and JoAnne Troesch at Holy Covenant Metropolitan Community Church on Sept. 28, 2014.

“We had been thinking about it,” said science teacher Katie Merva.  “We were going to get married anyways. We were going to go to another state or something just to make it legal. Honestly, when we found out that the law passed after we were engaged and our wedding venue only had a date open for after it had passed so it worked out. We wanted to get married as soon as possible because we were afraid of what happened with Proposition Eight in California.”

Proposition Eight in California, after allowing gay marriage, found gay marriage unconstitutional.  Same-sex couples had already been married, but after being ruled unconstitutional, no other couples were allowed to be married.  Same-sex marriage was later ruled constitutional.

These three couples had been together for a significant amount of time in awaiting the bill to be passed in Illinois.

“I proposed to my future husband, Manny, on Christmas Eve [of 2013] after being together for eight years,” said Dubois, “and we are so happy that the law passed.”

“I’ve been with my partner, Audrey, for 17 years and we got married on September 28, 2014,” said Troesch. “We got married at my church, Holy Covenant Metropolitan Community Church.”

“I met my partner, Melissa, three and a half years ago,” said Merva.

Many same-sex couples had the idea to go to different states with marriage equality to get married, but the issue was that they wouldn’t be legally married in Illinois.

“We thought about [getting married in another state],” said Dubois, “but the marriage wouldn’t be valid here.  That’s the problem, if we got married in New Hampshire, it wouldn’t be valid here.  Many states have marriage equality and the rest haven’t recognized it yet.  If your parents are married [a man and a woman], they wouldn’t be unmarried if they travel to another state.”

“[Getting married in another state] is not a concern of mine because I don’t feel that need,” said Troesch. “I’m glad they allowed it [here] because there were so many things that we had discriminatory practices with and it gives us a stronger fight.”

Troesch also explained that she and her partner were in a car accident a couple years ago and the nearest hospital was a Catholic hospital. Her partner was hurt and when asked for the emergency contact, Troesch named herself.  They did not allow Troesch to do this and was forced to put down her one of her partner’s children’s names.

“We had all of things we could possibly have while not being married and they still didn’t accept me as her emergency contact and we were in a hurry because she was hurt, but I knew everything about her medical history,” said Troesch. “It’s scary what can happen and I would like to see that change.”

Much of the reasoning for marriage equality is argued in conjunction with the Constitution.

“It violates the 14th amendment in that it discriminates against a group of people,” said Dubois.  “One state has to recognize another state’s marriage license or driver’s license.”

“I hope that the US Supreme Court will hear the lower courts and uphold that the 14th amendment should be upheld. I hope that marriage will be equal in all 50 states.  It will happen, it’s just going to take time,” said Dubois.

“A civil union is a separate but equal way of looking at things,” said Merva. “It is saying they will give some protections but it doesn’t count as an actual marriage.”

Merva also noted a quote from the late Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka in which she said that she was a Republican because she believed in small government, but she said that government has no position getting involved in who can and cannot get married.

Many people participated in protests in order to get the bill passed.

“My partner marched on Springfield,” said Troesch. “To get the same-sex marriage law changed.  She marched with people from our church.”

The Illinois bill being passed affected millions of people and created a stronger outlet for the fight against marriage inequality and the discrimination of the gay community as a whole.

“The marriage gives us a stronger thing within other communities that don’t accept it,” said Troesch. “While my family isn’t very accepting of my relationship, the marriage helps with the effects of after one of us passes away so that the family can’t take what belongs to both of us, thinking that everything belongs to one of us.”

“I love Illinois but I don’t know if I plan on staying here forever.  It’s just kind of sad that people have to feel restricted due to the fact that it isn’t legal everywhere,” said Merva. “If my partner is dying I want to be able to be there.”

“I was listening to a radio show with an interview of the first same-sex couple to be married in Massachusetts,” said Merva, “and I realized I really wanted that after hearing them talk.  They had a wedding with friends and family and I wanted that instead of doing it really quickly at the courthouse just to make legal before anything happen.  So I’m glad we waited until [their chosen wedding date of] October 25.”

Many people are shocked and relieved of the progress that has been made in the US.

“I didn’t think I would see all of this in my lifetime.” said Troesch. “It amazed me that all of this has happened and that it’s happening so quickly. I would like to see it pass in the whole country before I die. I think that would be incredible.”