Ill. issues civil union licenses to gay couples

By the Associated Press | June 1, 2011 | 8:58 AM EDT

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois has begun giving out licenses to couples who want to form a civil union.

Hundreds of couples lined up early Wednesday to get licenses as the state's new law went into effect. It allows gay and lesbian or straight couples to form civil unions, a rough equivalent to marriage.

Civil unions give couples many of the rights that accompany traditional marriage. That includes the power to decide medical treatment for an ailing partner and the right to inherit a partner's property.

The first civil union ceremonies can't take place until Thursday.

Cook County Clerk David Orr says it will be "a joyous day for all couples, gay and straight, who want to make history."