Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has officially signed off on a bill this afternoon legalizing civil unions in the state.
Cindy Savage and her partner, Julia Zayas-Melendez, were among the hundreds of people at the Chicago Cultural Center to witness the signing. Savage says they've been waiting years for this legislation to pass.
"And now when we buy our next house maybe we'll be allowed to apply for the mortgage jointly instead of a one borrower and secondary borrower. And when we get around to fostering or adopting some kids. They'll be legally ours the same way they'd be for anybody else," she said.
Monty Kehl and his partner Craig Wilbanks were also at the signing. A few years ago they traveled to Canada to get legally married. They recently moved to Chicago from Texas. They say they look forward to having their relationship recognized by the state. But Kehl says the civil union law isn't where it ends.
"Separate is not equal. I hope this is just a step on the path towards full marriage recognition in this country. But again, there's a lot of practical things that this step would allow us to do. Right now, if one of us falls ill, it's the grace of God or the grace of people there in the hospital that we're actually able to be in the room with each other," Kehl said.
The law gives same-sex and heterosexual couples many of the rights given to married people. Those include inheritance protection and the right to make medical decisions for an ill partner. It goes into effect June 1st.
Opponents argue it threatens the sanctity of marriage and moves Illinois closer to legalizing same-sex marriages.
Illinois law will continue to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.