D.C. starts taking applications for same-sex marriage licenses

March 04, 2010|By Keith L. Alexander and Ann E. Marimow | The Washington Post

Just sitting down at a desk at the marriage bureau at D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday was too much for Angelisa Young. She cried so hard that she eventually had to bury her face in her fiancee's chest.

About a half-hour later, Young and her partner, Sinjoyla Townsend, who met 13 years ago in a constitutional law class at the University of the District of Columbia, became the first same-sex couple to apply to be married in the district as the city officially joined five states in allowing gay marriage.

"I'm just so happy. We're whole now. We will actually be a true family like everyone else," Young, 47, said as Townsend, 41, used her thumb to wipe away her soon-to-be spouse's tears. After the couple from Southeast Washington rose from the desk, couples in line behind them broke into spontaneous applause and cheers.

For the couples in line Wednesday and those who will follow, it was the culmination of a three-decade struggle for equality.

The D.C. Council approved same-sex marriage on an 11-2 vote in December, and Democratic Mayor Adrian M. Fenty signed the bill into law, saying that he hoped the district would provide a road map for gay rights activists in other states, including possibly Maryland. Last week, Maryland's Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, a Democrat, said the state would begin recognizing same-sex marriages from other places.

By the end of the day, 151 couples had filed to be married, far surpassing the dozen or so applications the bureau typically collects on a single day. The weddings will have to wait, though. The district requires a three-day waiting period from the day you get your license.

Silver Spring resident Deborah Weiner brought her 15-year-old daughter to wait with her and her partner of 24 years, Janne Harrelson. "It's a great source of pride for her and, deep down, a source of relief and stability," said Weiner of her daughter.

Court officials had called in extra security officers to monitor the halls for protesters - but the officers far outnumbered the protesters.

The crowd included local religious leaders who showed their support for same-sex marriage, and dozens of college students cheered as couples emerged hand in hand from the courthouse.

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