12/09/2011 01:53 pm ET

Illinois Civil Unions: More Than 3,700 Licenses Issued In First Six Months

In the six months since Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law legalizing civil unions for same-sex partners in Illinois, more than 3,700 couples have been issued licenses.

Equality Illinois surveyed all 102 Illinois counties and found 90 had granted at least one license since June, according to the Associated Press. Just over half were issued in Cook County, more than 650 registered in the five "collar" counties and 1,200 were granted in the rest of Illinois.

The total number of gay and lesbian couples now recognized in Illinois is likely thousands higher, due to a provision in the new law that automatically extends legal standing to marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships established outside their jurisdictions, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

"That so many couples secured licenses in the first six months after they became available on June 1 demonstrated the importance that families placed on the protections it provided," Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, told the Sun-Times. "The fact that the figure grew to 3,729 civil unions licenses in the half year indicates a strong, ongoing desire for same-sex families to not only secure the legal recognition of government and the affirmation of their relationship from employers, family and friends but also the equal rights that civil unions guarantee."