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After marriage equality in Illinois, no more wedding bells for grateful couple

From left Susan Vaughan Keri Stone RaviniHighlPark with their sons Parker 10 months Noah 5. The couple who married last

From left, Susan Vaughan and Keri Stone, of Ravinia Highland Park with their sons Parker, 10 months and Noah, 5. The couple, who married last month in Iowa, are leated about passage of the sae-sex marriage bill in Illinois. | Karie Angell Luc/For Sun-Time

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Updated: January 14, 2014 2:28PM

When lawmakers voted last week to approve same-sex marriage in Illinois, it was music to the ears of Keri Stone and Susan Vaughan.

While the couple’s Oct. 19 marriage in Iowa is legal there, the two area music instructors are thrilled that Illinois will soon recognize their marriage.

The life partners, who make their home in Highland Park, have two adopted sons. Parker is 10 months, and Noah, 5, is a Highland Park Red Oak Elementary School kindergartner.

Both women shared their story and chatted with their boys Sunday morning on the front steps of their home before a breakfast of waffles, sausage and orange juice.

“It feels awesome. You feel validated, as it should be,” said Vaughan, a New Trier Township High School music faculty advisor with an emphasis on solo and ensemble vocals. “It does feel different.”

“You’re not ‘less than’ anymore,” said Stone, a Northbrook School District 28 concert band instructor.

The two celebrated a commitment ceremony on July 10, 2004 with more than 100 guests.

“That was what we consider our big wedding, but it had no legal ramifications,” said Stone.

A civil union was performed on Sept. 29, 2011. Then came last month’s marriage in Davenport, Iowa with “some dear friends,” Vaughan said.

The two expect their Iowa marriage will become legally recognized in Illinois when Gov. Pat Quinn signs the bill, which he has said he will do.

Word quickly spread Nov. 5 when the Illinois same sex bill received widespread lawmaker support.

“Keri actually called me after school and kind of shared the news,” Vaughan said.

The couple met while both were teaching in Northbrook. It was the first day of new teacher orientation, Aug. 28, 1993, in the Homer O. Harvey Room of the Northbrook School District 28 district office, Stone recalled.

Since then, life has brought career changes. Vaughan took the New Trier position where she leads the High Five choir. Stone has enjoyed various roles in the District 28 music department, which has settled into expanded space at the Northbrook Junior High School.

Simple things in their lives include soccer, baseball games and carpool duty. Noah participates in the dual language program at afternoon Highland Park Montessori.

Sydney, 7, the family’s golden retriever, needs walking too.

“You’re not different,” said Vaughan, of their family dynamic. “You’re just a family .... You know, you’re going to school. You’re picking up the kids. You’re just living.”

Vaughan is known as “Mommy” to her boys. They call Stone “Momma.”

“We’ve always had the same joys, the same struggles, the same everything as everyone else,” Stone said.

“Now we have rights and protections for our family and for each other that every human being deserves,” Vaughan said.

Both women are thankful for others who shaped history.

“We didn’t get here alone,” said Vaughan. “There are so many people who made this possible.”

The two report lots of feedback from well-wishers.

“A lot of congratulations, people are just generally happy for us,” said Stone.

“It’s a different time,” said Vaughan. “... The young generation, in my opinion, is one of the most accepting group of young people that all generations should learn from.

“And their families are very different and diverse. ... I think it just validates theirs by recognizing ours,” she said.

With the Illinois law expected to go into effect June 1, 2014, will there be more wedding bells in the couple’s future?

“No, we’re done, we’re done!,” Stone said.

“It’s not like the Twelve Days of Christmas!” Vaughan said, with a laugh. “We just need to move on. We’re just living our lives, and we just feel protected and we’re moving forward. We don’t have to think about that now, which is good. We just live.”

“That’s called progress,” Stone said.

“It’s called life,” agreed Vaughan.

Said Stone: “The way it should be.”

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