February 24, 2010 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Couples plan courthouse visits to celebrate D.C. marriage law

Aisha Mills and her domestic partner, Danielle Moodie, plan to mark March 3, the day the District’s same-sex marriage law is scheduled to take effect, by going to the courthouse to apply for a marriage license.

Due to a mandatory three-business-day waiting period, jubilant same-sex couples — some of whom have been in relationships for more than 20 years — won’t be able to marry until March 9 at the earliest. That’s when the D.C. Superior Court’s Marriage Bureau completes the processing of their marriage licenses.

But for Mills, president of the same-sex marriage advocacy group Campaign for All D.C. Families, March 3 nevertheless represents an historic day.

“The Campaign for All D.C. Families has been working hard for some time to ensure that all residents of the District of Columbia have the opportunity to wed here, and we are excited that it will finally become a reality on March 3,” she said.

Mills’ group and other local LGBT organizations were still finalizing plans this week for a celebration linked to a possible joint appearance by same-sex couples at the courthouse on the morning of the March 3 to fill out their applications for a marriage license.

“We have at least a half-dozen couples expected at the courthouse,” said Cathy Renna of Renna Communications, an LGBT-oriented public relations firm that’s coordinating plans for celebrating the start of the marriage law.

Under court rules, a $35 license application fee plus a $10 fee for a Certificate of Marriage, must be paid by cash or money order to enable couples to submit their applications. All this takes place in Room 4485 of the Moultrie Superior Court Building at 500 Indiana Ave., N.W.

Other groups involved in the same-sex marriage equality effort in D.C. that were expected to participate in a celebration March 3 include the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, D.C. for Marriage, and D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality.

District resident Reggie Stanley and partner Rocky Galloway “definitely” plan to be at the courthouse on the morning of March 3 to apply for a marriage license, Stanley said. But Deacon Maccubbin and longtime partner Jim Bennett, owners of the recently closed Lambda Rising Bookstore, weren’t sure this week whether to join other same-sex couples at the courthouse that morning.

“Jim and I haven’t had time to sit down and actually work out how we want to do this — whether we want to be in that first wave or whether we just want to take our time and do it in the old-fashioned way, so to speak,” Maccubbin said.

But regardless of which couples are in the first wave — or which couple is the first to wed in D.C. — Rick Rosendall of GLAA said the shared moment will be special.

“Whichever couples happen to be first in line on March 3, and whoever happens to have the first [wedding] ceremony on March 9,” he said, “it will be a deeply satisfying moment for those of us who have worked to make it possible.”

Local same-sex marriage advocates expressed a sigh of relief Feb. 19 when a Superior Court judge denied a request by their opponents for a court injunction to stop the same-sex marriage law from taking effect.

The opponents, led by Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., said an injunction was needed to give them more time to organize a voter referendum that could overturn the marriage law.

Judge Brian Holeman denied the injunction request on grounds that the court lacked legal authority to block a law approved by the local D.C. government and cleared by Congress through its regular 30 legislative day review, which ends March 3.

Holeman, in a ruling delivered from the bench Feb. 19 and released in writing Monday, also said an underlying lawsuit filed by Jackson seeking to force the city to hold a referendum on the marriage issue did not appear likely to succeed on its merits. He noted the likelihood of the success of Jackson’s lawsuit was a key factor in determining whether to grant an injunction.

Jackson and his attorneys appealed Holeman’s ruling Monday to the D.C. Court of Appeals. Legal observers believe the Appeals Court is likely to uphold Holeman’s decision.

“In my view, the appeals court has no more authority to stop a law passed by the city and cleared by Congress than the lower court,” said Mark Levine, a local gay rights attorney.

Under the city’s election law, Jackson and his backers must complete a series of requirements for a referendum, including obtaining petition signatures from voters, by the time Congress completes March 3 its review of the same-sex marriage law.

Even if the appeals court were to grant him a stay, many observers believe it would be impossible for Jackson to complete the administrative requirements for a referendum by that date.

Jackson is separately appealing a D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics decision denying his application for a voter initiative seeking to ban same-sex marriage in the city. Under the city’s election law, Jackson and his backers have at least six months to complete the petition requirements for an initiative and an unlimited time to challenge the city’s denial of his initiative request through the courts.

The election board has on three occasions denied requests by Jackson and others for ballot measures seeking to overturn the same-sex marriage law. The board has based its denials on grounds that such measures would violate the D.C. Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In addition to pushing for ballot measures, same-sex marriage opponents have called on Congress to either overturn the marriage law or force the city to place the issue on the ballot through a referendum or initiative. Most political observers believe Congress won’t intervene on the matter as long as Democrats are in control.

Capitol Hill insiders say all bets are off if Republicans regain control of Congress in the November election or sometime after that. But large numbers of same-sex couples will have married by the time a serious threat to the law surfaces in Congress.

“Everyone will see that the sky hasn’t fallen,” said Michael Crawford, a same-sex marriage activist.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

3 Comments
  • I have to point out some electoral truths

    NH passed a gay marriage bill by about 11 votes in their house in mid 2009.

    Just recently the attempt to kill gay marriage there failed by a hundred vote supermajority

    And backin 2004(?) in MA not one legislator who voted for gay marriage lost his seat. Quite the opposite happened to the homophobics.

    Just be carefull we dont need any more HOmophobic scott brows eleceted

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