Congratulations Illinois!  Today is the first day that civil union licenses are available in Illinois.  The Chicago Tribune has posted a few short videos to document the day.

When I watch these videos, I see such a mix of emotions in the people involved.  I see clerks super happy to finally be able to treat their fellow citizens who are lesbian, gay or bisexual with a measure of respect.

I see couples joyous over being able to formalize their relationships and feeling relieved in knowing that their decision to care for one another will be legally respected.  They can no longer be called “legal strangers” by the State of Illinois.

I also see the joy dampened with the knowledge that while civil unions are an important step in the right direction, they still represent second-class status and automatically brand those who get them as somehow unworthy or less-than.  They also represent a failure of the Illinois Legislature to demand that the federal government treat its lesbian, gay and bisexual couples with the same respect shown to heterosexual couples.  This respect comes in the form of federal rights and responsibilities that are available only through marriage.

We should all celebrate today with Illinois.  Then tomorrow, the work towards true equality must commence once again.