The Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., and LGBT civil rights organization Equality Illinois, have forged a union to co-host complimentary wedding ceremonies and receptions for 15 gay and lesbian couples, as part of MCA’s “Celebration of Marriage Equality” on Jun. 2.
Between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., selected couples will receive a private ceremony in the museum’s Kovler Atrium, according MCA, to be performed by a non-denominational officiant who will work with each couple to personalize their ceremony.
Each couple, and up to 20 of their guests, will also be treated to a half-hour reception on MCA’s Kern Terrace, including a wedding portrait courtesy of Fandl Photography; a champagne toast with petit fours delivered by Wolfgang Puck Catering; and music provided by Carmel Music and Entertainment, MCA added.
Elena Grotto, spokesperson for MCA, explained that the museum began talks about how it could celebrate the “contemporary moment,” since the marriage equality law was passed.
“From the start, it was very important to us to work with the community,” Grotto told Chicago Phoenix. “The passage of marriage equality was the result of many people and organizations working together to achieve a shared goal.”
Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, recognized this aspect, explaining that the upcoming event is a culmination of all efforts made in the past few years in making marriage equality a reality for the state’s gay and lesbian couples.
“As we were working on marriage equality, we travelled across the state and we have met couples, many of whom have been waiting for this moment for such a long time,” he said. “We know couples who have been together for five decades, waiting until they could have their love and commitment, and their relationship, recognized by the state as equal, and we wanted to mark the occasion … with a very special ceremony that dignifies [their] love and relationship.”
Regarding its partnership with Equality Illinois to host the event, Grotto acknowledged the organization as a key player in getting same-sex marriage passed by the state legislature.
“Equality Illinois was a strong fit for a partnership because they played a major role in helping the legislation to pass, as well as their stature in the state and city,” she said.
In promoting the event and contest, Grotto explained that it was “met with instantaneous support” from the community since it was announced in late March, up until the deadline for submissions on Apr. 18.
“In the first 24 hours alone, over 45 couples submitted applications to have their weddings at MCA Chicago,” said Grotto. “When the MCA closed the application window, over 100 couples had applied to be married as part of the event.”
Cherkasov explained that couples were invited to submit a brief description about themselves, and their story, on MCA’s website for consideration. A panel of representatives from Equality Illinois and MCA reviewed all submissions, according to Grotto.
“[The panel was] focused on selecting a group that reflects the diverse fabric of Chicago and Illinois,” she said. “The hardest part was narrowing selections, but the panel selected a strong group of couples—one of whom has been together for 51 years—who are looking forward to full legal recognition of their relationship.”
Among the 15 couples are Victoria and Amanda Slone, who explained they learned about the event through Facebook, and were “ecstatic” upon learning they were one of the couples selected for the celebration.
“You always enter a contest like this thinking you won’t be chosen, but you go for it anyway,” the couple said to Chicago Phoenix. “One of our first thoughts once it had all sunk in was, ‘How in the world are we going to narrow it down to 20 people?’”
With their ceremony only about a month away, the couple explained that they have already settled their guest list and picked out attire.
“[We have been] thinking about little details here and there [but] not too much to do since it’s all being handled for us.”
In looking forward to the event, Grotto explained that the MCA is “thrilled” to celebrate the recent passage of marriage equality, “guaranteeing the right of all people in Illinois to marry.”
Cherkasov agreed, saying, “I’ve gotten to meet so many couples over the past several years advocating for marriage equality, and [I am] just looking forward to that moment when we can finally exhale watching their love and commitment being recognized.”
“This is ultimately about love and about family and I hope that his celebration shows it,” he added.
Though marriage equality has passed for the state, Cherkasov added that Equality Illinois’ work continues.
“A year ago, we were still in the middle of the fight for marriage equality,” he said. “And now a year later, it’s a complete difference … we’ve been working for the past several months … with county clerks [and] with couples themselves, making sure that everyone understands the requirements of the law, and that the county clerks are issuing marriage licenses as soon as the full law takes into effect.”
In regards to what they’re looking forward to most on the day of the celebration, both Amanda and Victoria explained that they are excited to share their important day with their children, families and close friends.
“This day, for me, means marrying my best friend,” said Slone. “It also means that our relationship is now seen in the same light as our straight counterparts [and] that equality means everything.”