By Rachel Cromidas, @rachelcromidas
9:16 PM CST, November 19, 2013
Emily Trexler's excitement about the passage of Illinois gay marriage legislation goes beyond wanting to marry another woman someday. Her first concern is being able tell her family members, who hail from a socially conservative part of Georgia, that marriage is now a possibility for her.
"It actually really means a lot to me. In the town I grew up in, being gay is not OK," said Trexler, 28, of Roscoe Village. "I just came out to my family this year, and I told them I really, really wanted to get married some day."
Trexler and her friends were among the scores of revelers who flocked to Progress Bar and other Boystown haunts the evening of Nov. 5 to celebrate the state bill's passage.
"It was awesome," she said. "I heard a bunch of people talking to their partners about how they should get married. People are excited."
In the weeks since the state legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, setting Illinois up to be the 16th state where same-sex couples may marry, many in Chicago's LGBTQ communities have taken turns partying and pondering the new options before them. Gov. Quinn has said he will sign the bill into law Wednesday. Local wedding planners are already anticipating a possible gay wedding boom after June 1, 2014, when the law is slated to take effect. While some are gearing up for summer weddings and a rush on City Hall, others are reflecting on the ways gay marriage might further equality and where it falls short.
Anthony Navarro, a Lakeview-based wedding and event planner who has been planning ceremonies for same-sex couples in the region for more than a decade, says he looks forward to using the appropriate language to describe the events. Over the years, he has sometimes called them commitment ceremonies and, more recently, civil union ceremonies.
"In the mid-2000s we started doing commitment ceremonies, which are the same thing as a wedding, but that's not what we called them," he said. "We didn't have the language to describe what we were doing, even though we knew it was a wedding. I started telling people, 'You can call it whatever you want to call it. It's your choice.' "
Navarro said he expects to see a same-sex wedding boom in Illinois next year, after the law takes effect. He said some local couples he works with were already planning ahead, setting the dates for their ceremonies well into the summer of 2014 in the hopes that the state legislature would pass a gay marriage bill by then.
Navarro knows the local wedding industry will likely profit from the change, but more important to him is the social effect gay marriages could have on future generations.
"Beyond the wedding industry benefiting and anyone else benefiting, for the first time in this state there are going to be kids that will grow up and will figure out at some point that they are gay, and they are going to have the same thought process as their peers ... that they can grow, find a partner, get married, have kids, have a house, they can have the same dreams," he said.
Asya Domingo, 23, and her fiancee Emily Spurlin, 25, both of Logan Square, wanted to have their ceremony in Chicago one way or another after they got engaged this summer. But if the state didn't legalize same-sex marriage soon, they said they would have considered moving out of Chicago, where Domingo grew up.
"If it wasn't passed, we would have gone to another state temporarily to get the license and come back, or we were just going to move there, honestly," Spurlin said. "Maybe Minnesota or, if we were really going to move, Seattle. It's something that means so much to us, it would have been hard to live in a state where our marriage wouldn't be recognized just like everyone else's."
Bernadette Coveney Smith, a wedding planner and the founding president of the Gay Wedding Institute, which researches and consults businesses on gay marriage, predicts that Illinois will experience a trend similar to other states that have legalized gay marriage. She said the region will likely first see older couples having smaller courthouse ceremonies and dinner parties that require less planning than a traditional wedding, and later younger couples who typically plan larger and more expensive wedding parties.
"There's going to be a line at the courthouse for the couples who have been together so long, they just want to get the paperwork done and make it legal," she said. "A lot of couples who have been together a long time generally don't settle for civil unions. They're just not very popular, and they don't do much for the wedding industry. It's going to take a while for the big weddings to be planned."
But when they do happen, she said, researchers at the Williams Institute an LGBT think tank at UCLA, predict that same-sex weddings could bring close to $103 million to the state over the next three years.
Yasmin Nair, 47, of Uptown, said her feelings about the bill are tempered by the knowledge that gay marriage won't alleviate the struggles of many LGBTQ-identified people, particularly youth and the elderly, who face homelessness, can't access sufficient health care or are living with HIV/AIDS. Rather, she believes the energy invested into advocating for gay marriage legislation could have been better spent.
"Marriage does not get at the economic problems that many LGBTQ [people] find themselves confronted by," said Nair, who is a founder of Against Equality, an editorial collective that archives the gay rights movement from a perspective not focused on marriage.
Niki Maldonado, 22, of Evanston, said the bill's passage makes her look forward all the more to her sister's upcoming same-sex wedding, which is scheduled for next July.
"Now it's not like they're having this big party and it doesn't get to be as equal as other peoples'," she said. "It's also really important for my mom because she doesn't come from a time when this was something people could do. Until now, two-thirds of her children couldn't be legally married in the state we live in."
For Trexler, the marriage option represents the ability to fit in with a culture she was raised in that emphasized the significance of marriage. "I feel like I'm getting citizenship all over again," she said.
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