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The Cook County Clerk’s office says six couples from Evanston were among 203 from around the county who took out civil union licenses today, the first day they were available under a new Illinois law.

The Cook County Clerk’s office says six couples from Evanston were among 203 from around the county who took out civil union licenses today, the first day they were available under a new Illinois law.

But none of the Evanston folks were first in line. That distinction went to Janean Watkins and Lakeesha Harris of Chicago, who arrived at midnight to secure their place at the front of the line.

About 75 couples and their supporters arrived before the Clerk’s office opened at 7:30 a.m.

“Today, the engine of government says that we will move towards justice, towards fairness, towards equal protection under the law,” said Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Debra Shore of Evanston, who attended the civil union kickoff.

“This is a day long in the making. Congratulations to the happy couples!” said Clerk Orr, who is on assignment in Macedonia as an election monitor.

The civil union licenses are available to both same-sex and heterosexual couples, and at least two of the couples taking out the licenses on the first day were heterosexual.

Harris and Watkins, who have six children and have been together more than a decade, were emotional after receiving their license. Watkins expressed gratitude and relief after “all of the hours of toiling over, ‘How are we going to make sure people understand our family?'”

Because Watkins and Harris were first in line to receive their civil union license, they received a gift package from several sponsors, including: a two-night stay at the Palmer House Hilton and free Eli’s Cheesecake each anniversary for the rest of their lives.

Top: Janean Watkins holds the certificate authorizing her civil union with Lakeesha Harris. (Photo by Genie Lemieux-Jordan of Evanston Photographic Studios.)

Related story

Evanston alderman joins partner of 21 years in civil union (Trib Local)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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