Following a historic ruling on Friday, February 21, same-sex couples in Cook County, Illinois do not have to wait until June to be married, thanks to Justice Sharon Johnson Coleman. Her order noted, “There is no reason to delay further when no opposition has been presented to this Court and committed gay and lesbian couples have already suffered from the denial of their fundamental right to marry.”
Local news station ABC 7 reported that Charlie Gurion, 25, and David Wilk, 30, of Chicago were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in their state. After seeing a post of the news on Facebook, the couple walked to the County Clerk’s Office to get their marriage license.
I was lucky enough to speak with Charlie in one of his first interviews while he and David were in the midst of planning Saturday’s courthouse ceremony.
TC: You were the first same-sex couple to get married after today’s historic ruling. Congratulations! What are you feeling right now?
CG: Right now we are feeling a lot of different things. We are trying to respond to all of the information and posts on Facebook, our families have been reaching out to us, and people we haven’t spoken to in years are texting and calling us. It’s great to have such a flood of support.
TC: Planning a wedding in stressful under the best of conditions. Have your plans changed?
CG: We had a wedding date set in September, but we decided to go today. There really isn’t any point in waiting and we want to continue to experience the momentum. My mom has been talking with my family and David has been talking with his family, so hopefully they will be able to join us.
TC: I’m sure there was a lot of energy and excitement at the clerks office this afternoon. Can you tell me about that experience?
CG: I first saw about the ruling on Facebook so I immediately called David up and asked if he wanted to go the clerk’s office to get the marriage certificate. He was at work and wasn’t sure if he would be able to leave but he was able to come. I got ready extremely quickly and went to pick him up.
It was a little bit of a confusing building and we were trying to figure out where we were going and a kind woman helped us find our way. We figured they had already done multiple couples before us by the time we had gotten there. We got to the office and a woman directed us to the line to get the license and David Orr (the county clerk) told us we were the first same sex couple to get our marriage license. That’s when everything got a little crazy.
TC: How does it feel to be the first legally married same-sex couple in Illinois?
CG: Its definitely an honor. There are so many people who have fought for this and it is such a great feeling to have gotten the license. We’re both really excited about it.
TC: I’m a sucker for marriage proposals. Can you tell me a little bit about yours?
CG: I proposed to David this past August. We had been planning a trip to Europe for 7 months before. When the momentum for marriage was building I decided to propose on the trip. I ended up proposing on the lovelock bridge in Paris. I ordered a custom engraved lock that I gave to him on the bridge. It said “my one, my only, my soul mate: will you marry me?”
We had decided to go to the Louvre earlier in the day and literally we were running around the Louvre for an hour and a half. We had made some friends on our trip and I had ask some of them to help with the proposal. David was hungry and made us stop at McDonald’s after we left the Louvre and I was frustrated. I was so stressed but didn’t want him to see what I was feeling.
We were 40 minutes behind when we were supposed to get there. Immediately when we got to the bridge he went to look over the edge and wasn’t looking back at us which meant he couldn’t what we were doing behind him. I passed off my phone to one of our friends on the camera mode. I got down on one knee and grabbed his hand and said what I had planned. He said yes.
TC: You were able to get married four months earlier than you had expected. How does that feel?
CG: To us it was silly that [the government] were going to make all of the couples wait. It seemed to give them more opportunity to stop equality. By doing it sooner, it shows that people are ready and that it is really important. It showed that Illinois is ready to have same sex marriage.
TC: It’s always been fascinating to me whether or not same-sex couples take each others last name. Will you?
CG: We had actually talked about it after getting engaged. Neither of us wanted to make the other to feel like we were sacrificing our names and we didn’t want to hyphenate either. We didn’t want to have to have our children one day hyphenate and deal with all of that paperwork and confusion.
We decided to take my grandmother’s maiden name. We will both be taking a new name and will be starting a new name and family at the same time. The last name we will be taking has a lot of interesting signs. My grandmother and I were both really close. David ironically has the same birthday as my grandmother. We bought a house together a year ago and the realtor who sold us the house was from the same town as my grandmother back in Hungary. The woman who sold us our wedding bands also was from the same town in Hungary. There were too many coincidences for it to not be meant to happen. Our last name will be Spinner.
TC: What are your honeymoon plans?
CG: We’re still figuring that out. We don’t yet know when it will be, but we will use the same tour group that we used on the trip I had proposed on. It’ll be a slower pace than the last trip and we’ll be in Greece and some Greek islands. We could use some nice weather since we don’t have the best weather in Chicago.
TC: What advice or anecdotes would you give to individuals who are living in states without marriage equality?
CG: I would say to them that despite what state you’re in, the relationship that you’re in with the person you love is no different than ours or anyone else’s. While its unfortunate and wrong that you’re unable to get the same legal rights, you shouldn’t feel like second-class citizens. It’s only a matter of time before it moves to other areas or you could move to a state with equality. There are many states you wouldn’t think would have marriage equality, which are having a lot of progress. Keep looking up.
TC: Why do you think marriage equality has been gaining additional support throughout the country?
CG: I think as LGBT individuals are becoming more comfortable with who they are and more present and more people know LGBT people, it does a lot of wonders. People might see a nice person, a nice person who happens to gay, and they can recognize that you can be both. We’re no longer a hidden community.
TC: This week Arizona and four other states either passed or attempted to pass legislation that would allow for the legalization of discrimination against LGBT individuals. What are your thoughts on these measures?
CG: I think it’s horrible what they did. We have some people who are trying to force their beliefs on others. They are really twisting how things are and it’s really unfortunate that these bills got that far and were able to be heard. A lot of people, even those who don’t support marriage equality, are coming out against these bills and I think it’s just a matter of time before they are struck down.
TC: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
CG: We’re just a very normal couple and we’re just like any other couple. We own dogs, we own a home, and I think that’s an important thing to take away.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now recognize marriage equality. Although marriage equality efforts have been gaining traction throughout the country following the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling, LGBT individuals have faced extreme opposition in state and federal legislatures in recent times. Arizona passed legislation that legalizes discrimination on Wednesday and four other states attempted to pass similar legislation. Similar setbacks have been seen around the country and remind us that the fight for LGBT equality is battle that we will have to keep fighting for years to come.