EDGEWATER — Jason Eliason and his fiancé Scott Macdonald have a Midsommarfest tradition that's been going strong for 10 years.
Every year, the Edgewater residents throw a barbecue bash with family and friends in their backyard, wrap it up in the early evening and then lead their attendees south to Andersonville for the festival.
This Saturday, the tradition stands — with a twist: Eliason and Macdonald will take their contingent to the fest after getting married at this year's cookout.
After 17 years together, Macdonald doesn't think marriage in itself will make the couple closer. But he's glad they can celebrate with their families and enjoy "a bit more legitimacy" when it comes to their union.
"We're happy to see them see us so happy," he said.
Since Sunday, marriage licenses for same-sex couples have been available statewide, however a federal judge ruled in February that same-sex couples could get their marriage licenses in Cook County before then. About 1,800 have done so since.
Macdonald and Eliason could have been married by now, but timing the wedding to coincide with Midsommarfest, which runs June 6-8 this year, was important to them.
When the couple got together 17 years ago, the prospect of marriage looked unlikely for them, they said.
"I never thought that was even a possibility, so we just lived together and built a life together," said Macdonald, a 39-year-old app developer originally from New York City.
The couple met in Seattle through mutual friends and spent four years as an item before moving to Chicago together in 2001.
Macdonald was raised by "hippie parents" and grew up in New York City in an environment he said was more gay friendly than the setting Eliason grew up in. As an "out of place" teen figuring out who he was in a small eastern Washington town, Elias remembers feeling like he was the only gay guy around.
"I didn't know any gay people," said Eliason, a 38-year-old IT project manager.
He came out during his college years, but as a young man marriage still "wasn't even a consideration," he said.
"As part of the whole coming out process you just kind of give up on that sort of thing, at least in the time period that I grew up I didn't see it feasible," he said. "I'm glad that the situation in society has changed and doesn't have to be as fraught for everyone as it was when I was growing up."
After 10 years together, Eliason said Macdonald "knew I wasn't going anywhere, and I knew he wasn't going anywhere."
But after buying their first place together a few years ago and dealing with "a lot of legal things" such as wills, power of attorney, property agreements, Eliason said "it really became obvious that there's a lot of these legal benefits that we are missing out on because we're not married."
In November 2012, the night the marriage equality law passed in Washington, Eliason saw it as a sign that Illinois would eventually come around as well, so he popped the question and Macdonald accepted.
The following November, Gov. Pat Quinn signed marriage equality, making Illinois the 16th state to pass such a law and clearing the way for their union.
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