07/09/2011 12:47 pm ET Updated Sep 07, 2011

More Than 1,600 Illinois Couples Apply For Civil Unions In Law's First Month

With the month of June complete, an LGBT advocacy group announced Thursday that, by their count, 1,618 total civil union licenses were issued throughout the state in the month since the law went into effect on June 1. Couples applying for civil unions represented 83 of the state's 102 counties -- or just over 80 percent.

The group, Equality Illinois, said they contacted each of the state's county clerks in order to arrive at their estimate. They also asked each clerk for feedback on the law's implementation and, according to their press release, many clerks offered "stories about the excitement that permeated their offices, especially on the first day civil union licenses were offered."

In addition to those couples who applied for civil union licenses across the state during the month of June, the organization noted that many other Illinois couples who had entered into a marriage, civil union or domestic partnership in other states or jurisdictions prior to the law are now, in the eyes of their home state, also civil unionized here.

While there is no accurate way to estimate this number, Randy Hannig, the group's director of public policy, said he was certain the total number of Illinois residents now in civil unions is "drastically higher" than the 1,618 figure they arrived at.

At any rate, since most counties charge $30 for a civil union license, the same fee as accompanies a marriage license, the civil unions are responsible for approximately $48,540 in new state revenue, which Illinois could certainly use.

Illinois' civil union law was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn in late January in a ceremony attended by about 1,000 people at the Chicago Cultural Center. The law gives gay and lesbian couples official recognition from the state and many of the same rights that accompany opposite-sex marriage, including the right to inherit a partner's property and to make medical decisions for a partner.

The law still falls short of federal recognition for same-sex couples, which presents a tax loophole contentious to many LGBT advocates: Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Illinois Department of Revenue has determined that couples in civil unions may not file joint tax returns to the state. Other advocates, while celebrating the achievement of civil unions, continue to push for what they see as their ultimate goal: Federally-recognized marriage for same-sex couples.