This month a very special anniversary is remembered by all Oak Park residents who care deeply about the diversity, history and acceptance of our village.

In September, 1997 the Village of Oak Park Board of Trustees passed an ordinance creating a village-wide Domestic Partnership Registry. By approving the ordinance, Oak Park became the first municipality in the State of Illinois to offer recognition to its lesbian and gay citizens in committed relationships.

The registry allows same-sex couples to register with the village clerk as “domestic partners.” The registry does not have any legal benefits or legal rights; however, the symbolism is important. The registry illustrates the Village of Oak Park??s commitment and acknowledgement of all its citizens. The registry acknowledges that its gay and lesbian couples are recognized as legitimate, loving, caring couples in Oak Park-couples who have a major stake in our community: we own homes, raise our children and socialize with our neighbors in an atmosphere of mutual respect and acceptance.

The passage of the ordinance did not come without rancor and debate. The Oak Park Area Lesbian & Gay Association (OPALGA) devoted several months to organizing a broad-based coalition of Oak Parkers to lobby for passage. Gay, lesbian, straight Oak Parkers, as well as clergy, businesspeople and community organizations came together in one voice to speak for its passage.

Why does the lesbian and gay community in Oak Park recognize the importance of the registry? The registry affirms the dignity and legitimacy of our loving relationships.

It is important today-especially in an election year when several politicians around the country tend to demonize lesbian and gay Americans in order to pander for votes from the extreme right wing. Especially when several states have encoded discrimination in their state constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. Especially when politicians continue to use religion as a basis for hate and discrimination.

In 1997, the Village of Oak Park reaffirmed its commitment to equality and fairness for all of its citizens. In 2006 let us continue to reaffirm Oak Park’s commitment to diversity, equality and acceptance.

Brad Bartels and Cheryl Haugh

Co-chairs, OPALGA

Alan Amato

Public Policy chair, OPALGA

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