McHENRY – The significance of Sunday became clearer for Gale Harris and Deb Glaubke in the moments before they walked hand-in-hand down the aisle at the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry.
Locked into a 26-year-old relationship, the lesbian couple from Woodstock already had major celebrations for their commitment ceremony in 1989, a year after the two met at a friend’s party, and again in 2012 after entering into a civil union.
But the ho-hum feeling of Sunday being just another milestone quickly gave way to anxiousness and excitement for a couple waiting more than two decades to say “I do” and have it legally mean something.
“We are on the cusp of a social evolution. Something is really changing in this country and across this planet,” said the 73-year-old Harris. “It’s the historical significance of today.”
Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of a long journey reaching its end Sunday, Glaubke described the couple’s wedding day more succinctly.
“We are making history,” she said.
The Woodstock couple joined three other lesbian couples from Wonder Lake, Palatine and Round Lake to share vows and exchange rings in front of the Tree of Life congregation Sunday, exactly a week after the gay marriage law in Illinois took effect.
Officials at the McHenry County Clerk’s Office earlier in the week joined Illinois’ 101 other counties in issuing same-sex marriage licenses and converting civil unions for the first time. On Monday, Harris and Glaubke were the first same-sex couple in the county to receive their marriage license.
Supportive of same-sex rights for more than a decade, the Tree of Life congregation jumped at the chance to become one of the first in the county to host same-sex wedding ceremonies, said Rev. Sean Parker Dennison.
Dennison reminded the roughly 170 people who witnessed the festivities that the day was about celebration and a chance to renew their dedication to the cause of equality.
“Marriage is a step forward, but our commitment to the inherent worth and dignity of every person does not end here,” he said.
For Mary Fleming and Barb Oesterle, the Wonder Lake couple struggled to contain their excitement as they ate wedding cake and snapped photos with friends and family.
Jodi Kuperman and Megan Meyer, who came from Palatine to wed after 10 years, and Theresa Castino and Mary Kuhn, a Round Lake couple of 22 years, shared similar moments at the brides’ table outside the congregation.
As the music began playing for the four couples’ first wedding dance, both Fleming and Oesterle said they were simply happy they could share their wedding day with others who love them.
“I’m just happy people are recognizing that we should have a right to be married. It took a long time,” Fleming said, before looking over at Oesterle. “And I’m happy that I married her.”