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Growing Up Gay Is Difficult in Rural Illinois
Growing Up Gay Is Difficult in Rural Illinois

As Illinois prepares for legalized same-sex marriage, the concept of civil unions still has not taken hold in all corners of the state. The Illinois Department of Public Health says in the nearly two-and-a-half years since the state formalized an array of benefits for such relationships, ten counties still have not taken an application for one.

They are Calhoun, Cumberland, Hamilton, Henderson, Mercer, Pope, Pulaski, Putnam, Scott and Stark.

Jonna Cooley is executive director of the Phoenix Center, which is the LGBT community center for Springfield, offering services for the LGBT / HIV / AIDS community. She says, as someone growing up as a lesbian in the sixties and seventies in a small town in western Illinois, it doesn’t have to be sexuality – anything that’s different is looked down upon.

“For economic, for race, or religion, or anything, when you have something or someone that is even perceived to be different, sometimes life can be pretty difficult,” she says.

Cooley says there are assuredly gays and lesbians in all 102 counties. They may have gone elsewhere to obtain a civil union license, so as not to appear in the local paper, she says, or they may simply be waiting for same-sex marriage to be legal. That is to occur June 1, under a law to be signed by the governor Nov. 20.