Hundreds line up to be a part of history
One gay couple met on a Star Trek fan site, another dancing at a country western bar. Some have been together for months, others more than a decade.
About 150 pairs had something in common Wednesday, though, applying for wedding licenses on the first day same-sex unions became legal in the nation’s capital.
The mood at the marriage bureau inside the city’s Moultrie Courthouse was celebratory. Couples clapped, called out “Congratulations” and cupcakes and tulips were handed out. One family said it was important to show up the first day.
“It sets a good example,” said district resident Christine Burkhart, who married Denise Gavin in a ceremony in 2006 in Washington.
The pair stood in line rocking their twin 4-month-olds, Milo and Josephine. “We’ll be able to tell them that we all went together as a family.”
The District of Columbia became the sixth place in the country permitting same-sex unions. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont also issue same-sex couples licenses.
Because of a processing period of three business days for all marriage license applicants, the couples won’t be able to marry until Tuesday. That’s the day they can pick up their licenses.
Sinjoyla Townsend, 41, and her partner of 12 years, Angelisa Young, 47, claimed the first spot in line just after 6 a.m. The district residents are already domestic partners but wanted to marry.
“It’s like waking up Christmas morning,” said Young, who teared up when she sat down to process their paperwork. “It’s really like a dream come true.”
Most couples who applied for licenses were from the district and nearby Virginia and Maryland, which said last week it will recognize same-sex unions performed elsewhere until the state Legislature or courts decide otherwise. One couple got on the road at 4 a.m. to drive from West Virginia and another couple was from Delaware. Some said it was symbolic to get married in the nation’s capital, but for many D.C. is simply home.
A number of couples worried that the licenses would be short-lived as in California, where same-sex marriage was legal for a time but later overturned by voters.
In D.C., the marriage bureau prepared for the day by making license applications gender-neutral, asking for the name of each “spouse” rather than the “bride” and “groom.” The bureau also brought in temporary employees to help its regular staff. Couples got numbers when they arrived to help with crowd control.
Normally, the bureau handles 10 applications a day. On Wednesday it was 151, though at least four heterosexual couples did show up, including Matt Lawson, 30, and Christine Vander Molen, 27.
They are getting married next weekend and couldn’t wait any longer to apply for a license. Vander Molen said she didn’t mind being the “odd couple out” and found it funny when one person looked at them quizzically and asked, “You two are getting married to each other?”
The gay marriage law was introduced in the 13-member D.C. Council in October and had near-unanimous support from the beginning. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty signed it in December, but because Washington is a federal district, the law had to undergo a congressional review period that expired March 2.
Opponents have so far been unsuccessful in challenging the law, but they are still attempting to overturn the bill in court. That worries Eric North and Tom French, both 45, who were at the courthouse.
“We want to get in when we can,” French said.
“I want to be able to say I’m married,” North added.
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