Illinois rep marries partner in iowa

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IIllinois state Rep. Deborah Mell

IIllinois state Rep. Deborah Mell – Photo: Courtesy

Illinois state Rep. Deborah Mell, D-Chicago, quietly made Illinois history last week.

She got married.

To a woman.

Mell, 43, is the first high-profile elected official in the state to publicly enter into a same-sex marriage.

But she had to go to Iowa to do it.

It’s one of only six states plus the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal. A judge in Davenport performed their civil ceremony.

Mell’s wife is Christin Baker, 36, a national director for the YMCA. They dated for seven years.

“Our relationship deserves marriage,” said a beaming Mell. “That’s how I feel about it. I mean there was a time in our relationship where it just wasn’t right to call Christin my ‘partner’ or my ‘friend’ …or even my ‘civil-unionized partner.’ You know she’s my wife. … We deserve those titles, those rights.”

Last November, Mell stood on the floor of the Illinois House and made an impassioned plea for lawmakers to pass, at the very least, a civil union bill.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the civil unions bill in January.

“Their Iowa marriage is deemed to be a civil union under Illinois law,” said Christopher Clark, senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal, a national civil rights organization.

What does it really matter?

Under the national Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996, civil unions or same-sex marriages legalized by states don’t carry the same rights and privileges that exist under federal law for married couples. That includes spousal access to Social Security in the event one dies and the ability to file joint federal tax returns.

– from AP and WiG reports