As Illinois began issuing civil union licenses to gay, lesbian and straight couples on Wednesday, Representative Greg Harris, the sponsor of the measure in the House, reiterated that he'll back a gay marriage bill sometime in the future.

Long lines are expected at county clerks' offices as Illinois becomes the fourth state to legalize the union behind New Jersey, Hawaii and Delaware. (Other states, including California, Washington and Nevada, offer similar benefits to gay couples through domestic partnerships.)

Couples will each pay $35 for their license and need to wait one day before holding a ceremony.

In Cook County, the first couple to receive their license was Lakeesha Harris and Janean Watkins of Chicago.

Clerk David Orr called the day “joyous.”

“I'm thrilled this day has finally come,” Orr said in a statement. “This will be a joyous day for all couples – gay and straight – who want to make history as part of the inaugural group of civil unions.”

Twenty businesses donated gifts that will be raffled off to couples waiting in line. All couples are being invited to celebrate with cake and chocolate donated by Eli's Cheesecake and Illinois Nut & Candy.

Opponents, however, were not celebrating as the law came online.

Catholic Charities of Rockford is ending its state-funded foster care and adoption services today in order to avoid the possibility of being forced into placing a child with a couple in a civil union. The law's start has also prompted opponents to launch a petition drive to constitutionally ban gay marriage in Illinois.

In comments made to the Daily Herald, Representative Greg Harris, the sponsor of the civil unions bill in the House, reiterated his support for full marriage equality.

“I think we'll let this bill go into effect, and [couples will] get their licenses, people will see that plagues of frogs will not come down and the world will not end,” Harris said. “In time, when it's the right time, I'll put in a marriage equality bill.”