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Longtime Couples Perform First Civil Unions in Kane County

At least four same-sex couples stand before county judge Thursday afternoon.

To partners Michael Bradley and Stephen Bona, Thursday afternoon was a moment almost 20 years in the making.

The Batavia couple exchanged rings before a judge in one of the first .

The two had been together for 19 1/2 years before the ceremony, which was made possible by a state bill approved earlier this year.

"It was a big relief when the legislation was signed," said Bona after the ceremony.

Wednesday marked the first day county clerk offices in Illinois could issue civil union licenses. Couples have to wait 24 hours after applying for the license before they can have the ceremony.

At least four same-sex couples stood before a judge in the Kane County Judicial Center on Thursday.

Carrie Brecke and Marsha Walker of East Dundee had been living together for 20 years. Brecke said they were the 11th couple to get a license in Kane County. The two have a reception planned and will be going to the Hotel Baker in St. Charles to celebrate.

The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, signed by Gov. Pat Quinn on Jan. 31, recognizes same-sex unions. It also made Illinois the sixth state to allow the unions.

Those in a civil union have many of the same benefits a marriage license provides. However, civil unions are not recognized in all states and couples cannot file joint federal tax returns or some other shared federal benefits.

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