WHEATON – A celebratory mood filled the DuPage County Clerk's office Monday morning as same-sex couples received marriage licenses for the first time.
"It's a great day in Illinois," said Barb McMillan of Roselle. "Now we just have to get the rest of the country on board."
McMillan and her wife, Roseann Szalkowski, both of Roselle, know the clerk's office and its employees well. The couple of 14 years visited every Valentine's Day beginning in 2004 with a gift of chocolates for the employees, and a request for a marriage license. Every year, they would leave empty handed. They ended the tradition in 2011 when civil unions for same-sex couple's became legal in Illinois.
On Monday, they brought chocolates for the office one last time and had their civil union converted to a marriage license.
Illinois' law allowing gay marriage went into affect Sunday, and the first day couple's could receive their licenses in DuPage County followed Monday morning.
McMillan, 63, and Szalkowski, 53, were joined by two other couples when the clerk's office doors opened at 8 a.m., along with a gaggle of reporters and members of PFLAG, a gay and lesbian support organization that presented roses to the couples.
McMillan and Szalkowski were the first in line in 2011 for a civil union, and on Monday, only one couple arrived before they did – Dan McGuire, 67, and David Mancini-Conway, 49, of Naperville.
"It kind of puts us on a level plying field," Mancini-Conway said. "We pay taxes like everybody else. I'm so excited I probably won't remember anything about this."
McGuire said the marriage license provides a feeling of satisfaction and validation. But there are also the practical benefits of marriage – the couple planned to visit their tax attorney and finally enjoy the rewards of joint income-tax filing.
Like the other couples in the office, McGuire and Mancini-Conway received a civil union in 2011, and had it converted Monday to a marriage license, something they both said they didn't expect to ever happen in Illinois.
"All that stuff that people take for granted, we can have now," Mancini-Conway said.
The third couple to arrive early Monday, Catherine and Jevelyn Verbic of Naperville, were the first to actually receive and sign their license.
"Twenty-eight years ago when we first committed to each other, I said to her, 'someday we're going to be legally married,'" Catherine, 54, said. "And here we are."
Jevelyn, 55, said she wasn't so confident that the law would ever change.
"It feels good to be able to say that we're married and that we can enjoy the same opportunities that everybody else does," she said. "And I view it as a blessing. I mean, I did not think it would happen in our day. And that shows us that things can change and people's ideas about what's right or wrong, good or bad, can change."