Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Gay Marriage Is Legal in U.S. Capital

Gay Marriage Is Legal in U.S. Capital
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: March 3, 2010

WASHINGTON — It was cold and drizzling outside the City Courthouse just after 6 a.m. on Wednesday, but no one seemed to mind among the same-sex couples waiting excitedly for the chance to apply for a marriage license.

“This is a dream come true,” said Sinjoyla Townsend, 41, as she smiled ear to ear and held up her ticket indicating she was first in line with her partner of 12 years, Angelisa Young, 47. “We wanted it so bad.”

Gay-rights advocates hailed the day as a milestone for equal rights and a symbolic victory as same-sex marriage became legal in the nation’s capital.

Washington is now the sixth place in the nation where same-sex marriages can take place. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont also issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Despite failing in court, opponents of the law vowed to fight another day.

The law survived Congressional attempts to block it, and on Tuesday Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. rejected a request from opponents of gay marriage to have the United States Supreme Court put the new law on hold.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty signed the measure into law in December, but because Washington is not a state, the law had to undergo Congressional review, which ended Tuesday.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington on Tuesday limited employee health care benefits to avoid coverage of same-sex couples. It was the second time Catholic Charities changed its rules to protest same-sex marriage, having earlier ended its foster care program.

The city’s new law was already having regional implications.

Last Wednesday, Maryland’s attorney general, Douglas F. Gansler, issued a legal opinion concluding that his state should immediately begin recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Mr. Gansler’s move is expected to draw legal and legislative challenges, but for Terrance Heath it was the turning point that convinced him it was time to get married.

“We realized that we can finally get many of the benefits and protections that other couples take for granted,” said Mr. Heath, a 41-year-old blogger who lives with his partner, Rick Imirowicz, 43, and their two adopted sons in Montgomery County, Md.

“Before that attorney general decision we could have the legal documents, like wills and medical power of attorney,” Mr. Heath said. “But there was no guarantee that those documents would be recognized.”

He said that he and his partner had worried about what might happen to any inheritance meant for their adopted sons, Parker, 7, and Dylan, 2.

“Marriage gives us peace of mind,” Mr. Heath said. “It gives my family security that we deserve.”

At the city’s Marriage Bureau inside the Moultrie Courthouse, just blocks from the Capitol, the mood was giddy as couples hugged and talked about a day they never thought would arrive.

“I became a naturalized U.S. citizen in mid-’90s,” said Cuc Vu, a native of Vietnam who held the third position in line with her partner of 20 years, Gwen Migita. “But this is really the first time that I feel like I have the full rights and benefits of citizenship.”

Court officials explained that the Marriage Bureau changed its license applications in preparation for the new licenses. They now ask for the name of each “spouse” rather than the “bride” and “groom.” Officials who perform the weddings read: “I now pronounce you legally married” instead of “I now pronounce you man and wife.”

On a typical day the office processes 10 licenses, court officials said. On Wednesday, they expected more than 200 requests.

Because of a mandatory waiting period, couples will not be able to marry in the city until Tuesday.

City officials say the measure will also provide a much-needed financial boost to the local economy. A study by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, predicted that more than 14,000 same-sex marriages would occur in the city over the next three years, which would bring in $5 million in new tax revenue and create 700 jobs


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