12/21/2011 11:05 am ET Updated Dec 21, 2011

Illinois Civil Unions: Straight Couples' No. 1 Reason To Register? Solidarity With Gay Couples

A report released Tuesday by Cook County Clerk David Orr revealed that solidarity with same-sex couples was the top reason why many Cook County straight couples have registered for civil unions though they, unlike gay and lesbian couples, have the option to legally wed in Illinois.

According to Orr's office, 87 heterosexual Cook County couples registered for civil unions between June 1 and Sept. 19, the time period covered by a survey conducted by an intern working at the clerk's office. According to that survey [PDF], 26 percent (12 of the survey's 46 respondents) cited "political or ideological reasons such as equality and inclusiveness" when asked why they opted for a civil union rather than a marriage.

Orr described the results as showing that some straight couples in Cook County, the nation's second-most populous county, "are clearly making a statement when they are civilly united rather than married" in a statement.

"One respondent put it best when she said this decision was in solidarity with the gay community until they also have the option of getting married," Orr continued.

The second-most common response, offered by nine respondents, was obtaining benefits. Eleven of 46 respondents said that "religious or personal convictions" also played a role in their decision.

Half of all survey respondents also noted that they still plan on getting married at some point.

Randy Hannig, director of public policy at Equality Illinois, a Chicago-based statewide LGBT advocacy organization, said in a statement that the survey's result "tells so much about how far we have come."

"We hope that these statistics hold true in other parts of the country and set a precedent for our straight allies to stand up for the gay community until we achieve full marriage equality," Hannig said. "We at Equality Illinois appreciate the sacrifice these couples are making because only marriage guarantees full and equal rights at all levels of government across the country."

During the same time period examined by the study, 1,383 same-sex couples registered for civil unions in Cook County.

Over the course of the first six months of the unions, the county issued a total of 1,856 civil union licenses, 138 of those to opposite-sex couples. Statewide, according to a count made by Equality Illinois, slightly more than 3,700 couples registered for civil unions between June 1 and Nov. 30. Registrants have come from 90 of the state's 102 counties, according to the group.

Illinois civil unions were signed into law in January by Governor Pat Quinn, who described the measure as a matter of civil rights and basic fairness. The law gives couples many, but not all, of the rights that accompany traditional marriage, including the power to decide medical treatment for an ailing partner and the right to inherit a partner's property.