Straight couples in Illinois choose civil unions to show solidarity with gays

A number of heterosexual couples in Cook County, Ill., chose to formalize their relationships with civil unions instead of marriage this year in order to show solidarity with same-sex couples, who are not allowed to marry under state law.

A total of 87 heterosexual couples obtained civil union licenses between June 1 and Sept. 19, according to the Cook County Clerk’s office. During the same time period, 1,383 same-sex couples obtained civil union licenses in the county.

Cook County Clerk David Orr conducted a survey to find out what motivated straights to choose civil unions over marriage. One partner from 46 of the 87 couples was reached – a response rate of 53 percent.

Of those who were reached 12, or 26 percent, cited political or ideological reasons such as equality and inclusiveness.

“Some heterosexual couples are clearly making a statement when they are civilly united rather than married,” Clerk David Orr said. “One respondent put it best when she said this decision was in solidarity with the gay community until they also have the option of getting married.”

An unpaid student intern working for the Clerk’s office conducted the telephone survey in September. Respondents ranged in age from 19 to 74. Twenty respondents were women and 26 were men. All but nine were white.

 When asked, “Are you still planning on getting married at some point?,” 38 percent of men and 65 percent of women said “yes.”