First gay marriage in DeKalb a sign of hope

Danny Cozzi

Darla Cook and Jaelyn Paulsen got married Monday night.

After a hectic, last-minute legal scramble, the same-sex couple is the first to marry legally in DeKalb County.

Cook, 57, and Paulsen, 50, had a civil union March 17, 2010, and wanted to keep the day especially memorable by getting married on their anniversary.

Their wedding is a sign of legitimate progress for gay rights — regardless of how long it took for that to happen.

“[We had] the wedding in the church [Monday night] with our pastor,” Cook said. She said the ceremony was a “simple thing” planned for her and Paulsen to further celebrate their loving commitment to each other.

But it wasn’t all simple. Cook and Paulsen bounced back and forth in the marathon of red tape on the day they got their marriage license. Cook said it was stressful, but she was thankful for the help they received in order to get married in time for their anniversary.

With the legal muck cleared away, the couple was set to marry. While I spoke with Cook on the phone, I realized I was talking with someone who’s an important part of history. Cook and Jaelyn paved part of the way for same-sex couples to experience real marital equality.

“With a civil union, it’s still telling you you’re lesser,” Cook said. “And so with the marriage license … it’s a whole different feeling.”

It’s a mystery why marriage equality — a no-brainer to me — is still debated and slow-moving. But little moments like Cook and Paulsen’s wedding are uplifting. DeKalb is among the first counties in Illinois issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Now it’s a waiting game until the law takes full effect on June 1.

“I didn’t see this happening in my lifetime unless I lived a real, real long time,” Cook said. “You don’t have that real connection [without marriage]. I don’t think a person realizes it until they really do [get married]. It’s a much more … legitimate feeling of being equal.”

I wish nothing but the very best for DeKalb’s most famous newlyweds. I’m thrilled for the day same-sex couples everywhere can enjoy the same feeling Cook and Paulsen now have.