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With the city’s historic same-sex marriage law expected to take effect in less than three weeks, the application form for a marriage license at the D.C. Superior Court still leaves space only for the names of bride and groom.

But a spokesperson for D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At Large), author of the Religious Freedom & Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act, said the marriage license application form is among a few last-minute details that the city and the court are expected to address in the next two weeks.

The law that Catania wrote and the City Council approved allows partners to describe themselves on a marriage license as a bride, groom or spouse.

Ben Young, Catania’s chief of staff, told DC Agenda this week that the form change was “being worked on.”

“Should the D.C. bill become law, the court will be ready on the effective date with forms for applicants to use that refer to spouses, not brides and grooms,” said Superior Court spokesperson Leah Gurowitz.

For same-sex couples planning to wed in the District after the new law takes effect March 3, a civil wedding at the courthouse or a religious wedding from an LGBT-friendly place of worship will be available to them.

Under city law, all couples seeking to be married must apply for and receive a marriage license, which costs $35. The application for the license can be obtained online at dccourts.gov, but it must be submitted and paid for in person.

Also under D.C. law, the minimum age for obtaining a marriage license without the need for parental consent is 18. A marriage license for people between the ages of 16 and 17 can be obtained only with the consent of a parent or legal guardian, and no one under age 16 can marry.

“When applying for a marriage license, you may request a civil wedding, specifying the date and time you would like to be married, at least 10 days from the date of application,” according to the Marriage Bureau Section of the court’s web site.

The site says a court clerk will contact the applicants to confirm the date and make final arrangements for a civil ceremony, which is performed by a court official in a designated room at the courthouse. The courthouse is located at 500 Indiana Ave., N.W.

According to the court’s web site, the “marriage ceremony room” holds about one dozen guests. A certified copy of the marriage license can be obtained on the day of the ceremony for $10. There is no fee for the ceremony or use of the room, but wedding participants are asked to consider making a tax-deductable donation to the D.C. Superior Court Art Trust Fund.

Unlike some jurisdictions, judges in D.C. don’t routinely perform civil marriages, although some judges do so for couples with whom they are personal friends, according to a court source who spoke on condition of not being identified. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty is not authorized to perform civil marriages under city law.

“The Clerk of the Court, and those he deputizes, may perform marriages at the courthouse, as well as judges,” Gurowitz said. “Generally, judges do not perform courthouse weddings, as they are on the bench with their calendars to handle during weekday work hours.”

Gurowitz declined to say whether court personnel authorized to perform civil marriages would be allowed to decline to perform a same-sex marriage if they have religious or moral objections to such marraiges, as is the case in some states.

“We do not comment on personnel and staffing matters,” she said.

Several D.C. clergy members said this week that despite the vocal opposition to same-sex marriage from some local clergy, a large number of clergy and their places of worship stand ready and willing to perform gay weddings.

The new law allows clergy to refuse to perform same-sex marriages and refuse to allow their facilities to be used for such marriages if performing such marriages is contrary to their religious beliefs.

“We’re prepared to begin marrying same-sex couples as soon as the law goes into place,” said Rev. Robert Harties, pastor of All Souls Unitarian Church. “I’ve already been in conversation with members of my congregation who are interested in becoming married and who are making plans for their wedding dates.”

Harties serves as co-chair of D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality, which he said has close to 200 members. He noted that most members of the group, along with their respective churches or other places of worship, including synagogues, are planning to host same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Also looking forward to performing same-sex weddings are at least five LGBT-oriented churches or congregations in the city that have long performed same-sex commitment ceremonies. Among them are Metropolitan Community Church of D.C., Unity Fellowship and Inner Light Ministries, which provide Protestant services; Bet Mishpachah, widely known as the city’s LGBT syngogue; and Dignity Washington, which offers a weekly Mass for LGBT Catholics.

Rev. Dwayne Johnson, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church since January, said MCC churches across the country have performed what some of its members consider to be weddings since the church was founded in 1969.

“In a sense it was a form of political resistance on some level,” he said. “What was not accepted in the eyes of the state we felt was accepted in the eyes of God. So we will continue to bless relationships, and now to be able to do it legally is really exciting.”

Rev. Abena McCray, pastor of Unity Fellowship, which has a largely African-American protestant congregation, said the church is preparing to offer same-sex weddings when the D.C. gay marriage law takes effect.

Jack Hillelsohn, Bet Mispachah’s vice president for religious affairs, said the congregation’s rabbi, Toby Manewith, is a member of D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality and is excited about performing same-sex marriages.

“Kiddushin is the Hebrew word for marriage, and we have performed these in the past without legal standing,” Hillesohn said. “There’s always been the need for this ceremony, and now we’re pleased to be able to do it with full legal standing.”

Ray Panas, president of Dignity Washington, said the LGBT Catholic group recognizes that plans to arrange for Catholic same-sex marriage ceremonies in D.C. will face difficulties given the Catholic Church’s strong opposition to same-sex marriage. The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington is expected to prohibit diocesan priests from performing same-sex marriages.

But Panas said priests associated with Catholic orders or societies independent of the archdiocese have often celebrated the Catholic Mass for Dignity members. He noted that the group is hopeful some arrangements can be made for a priest to perform same-sex marriages for its members.

Under D.C. law, clergy who are licensed and credentialed under their respective religious faiths must also obtain a city license to perform a marriage. Johnson and McCray aren’t currently licensed to perform marriages, but the two said they are taking immediate steps to obtain a license, which is also issued at the D.C. Superior Court.

Harties and officials with the four LGBT-oriented congregations said their respective congregations have long offered various forms of relationship counseling for couples contemplating marriage or domestic partnerships. They said they would continue this practice with same-sex couples seeking to marry.

However, gay rights attorneys have advised same-sex couples considering marriage to be aware of local divorce laws in the event that a relationship ends and a separation is sought.

One aspect of the D.C. divorce laws that could be a factor for same-sex couples who come to the District from other states to marry is a six-month residency requirement. Either spouse must be a city resident for at least six months before the couple is eligible to file for divorce.

Other aspects of the city’s divorce laws, including options of both no-fault and fault filings and property distribution and child custody and support provisions, can be reviewed in the divorce section of the Superior Court’s web site.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2024 Pride honorees

Nine LGBTQ leaders, Destination DC to be honored

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Iya Dammons is among this year’s Pride honorees. (Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, has announced its selection of nine individuals and one D.C. organization as recipients of its annual honors awards recognizing outstanding service for the LGBTQ community and the cause of LGBTQ equality.

“Each year, the Capital Pride Alliance honors outstanding individuals, leaders, and activists in the National Capital Region who have furthered causes important to the LGBTQ+ community,” the group said in a statement. The statement says the honorees chosen this year “tirelessly contribute to our collective advocacy, outreach, education, and programming in support of our intersectional community.”

The awards were scheduled to be presented to the recipients at a Capital Pride Honors ceremony on Friday, May 31 at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. A statement released by Capital Pride says the event will be hosted by WUSA9 TV news reporter Lorenzo Hall, with entertainment by special guests, including singer-songwriter Crystal Waters, DJ Honey, and the Black Leaves Dance Company.

The award recipients as released by Capital Pride Alliance include the following:

Hero Award recognizing  “individuals who have furthered the causes important to LGBTQ+ community in the national capital region” and “have brought about positive changes to our lives and our community.”

• Hope Gisselle, nationally recognized author, artist, and activist who advocates for LGBTQ rights through organizations she has been a part of, including her founding of a human resources organization called AllowMe and her current role as CEO and Executive Director of the National Trans Visibility March.

• Jamison Henninger, has served as leader of the D.C. Area Transmasculine Society, known as DCATS, a community-based organization that aids transmasculine individuals in the D.C. metro area, serves on the board of Trans Pride DC, and serves as a consultant for Gender Illumination, a nonprofit group.

• Kenya Hutton, a social justice, equity, HIV prevention, and sexual health advocate who has worked to address issues impacting communities affected by HIV and other health disparities for over 20 years. He currently serves as deputy director of the D.C.-based national LGBTQ organization Center for Black Equity and is set to become its acting CEO and executive director in August.

• Carol Jameson has worked for more than 35 years in Northern Virginia developing and administering programs that address health care disparities and provide access to health care services, including HIV/AIDS related services. She has served as executive director for NOVAM, a nonprofit group providing HIV prevention and HIV care for adolescents and young adults in Northern Virginia.

• Tula, an esthetician and hair stylist by day, has been a widely recognized drag performer for more than 30 years and host to D.C. cabaret shows. A former title holder and member of the Academy of Washington, D.C. drag organization, “she brings a plethora of stage experience to any show,” according to a Capital Pride writeup.

• Jose Alberto Ucles has been involved with a wide range of LGBTQ supportive events and projects both culturally and politically while working in his day job for the past 23 years as the Hispanic Outreach Spokesperson and Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some of his many involvements include past work with the Whitman-Walker Clinic, Capital Pride organizing in the 1990s, and currently a member of the Arts & Culture Committee for World Pride 2025 DC.

Breaking Barriers Community Impact Award recognizes individuals or organizations who have demonstrated significant impact on the LGBTQ+ community and helped eliminate barriers for social, personal or professional growth of the LGBTQ+ community.

• Iya Dammons, a widely recognized transgender and LGBTQ rights advocate is the founding Executive Director of DC Safe Haven and Maryland Safe Haven, the nonprofit organizations credited with providing support and services for LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness, substance use problems at risk of an overdose, and discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

The Bill Miles Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service acknowledges exemplary contributions to the Capital Pride Alliance and its programs, initiatives or other Pride sponsored activities.

• Bryan Davis is an accomplished Sign Language interpreter trained at D.C.’s Gallaudet University who currently serves as Volunteer Chair with Capital Pride Alliance and previously has served as Executive Producer and Chair for Accessibility and Interpreter Coordinator for Capital Pride.

• William Hawkins has since 2017 been a committed volunteer for Capital Pride as part of its production team and as Executive Producer of Health and Safety and later as Health and Safety Chair. He is credited with helping to form alliances with G.W. Hospital, the D.C. Fire & Emergency Medical Services Department, and the D.C. Licensing Division.

Larry Stansbury Award for Exemplary Contributions to Pride recognizes outstanding efforts related to programs and initiatives of the annual Capital Pride Alliance or Pride movement.

• Destination DC, a private, nonprofit corporation, serves as the lead organization to successfully manage and market Washington, D.C. as a premier global convention, tourism, and special events destination, with a special emphasis on the arts, cultural and historical communities. It is credited with generating economic development for the city through visitor spending.

Further details about the Capital Pride honorees and the May 31 event, including availability of admission tickets, can be accessed at their website.

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District of Columbia

D.C. mayor to hold 2nd annual LGBTQ flag raising ceremony

Event set for June 3 outside District Building

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Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at last year's flag ceremony outside of the John A. Wilson Building. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs announced this week the mayor will lead the city’s second annual LGBTQIA+ Flag Raising Ceremony at 4 p.m. on June 3 outside the John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., which serves as the D.C. government’s city hall.

“We are delighted to invite you to the LGBTQIA+ Flag Raising Ceremony, a significant event celebrating the visibility and diversity of our LGBTQIA+ community,” said Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office, in a May 21 statement.

“Join us as we raise the LGBTQIA+ flag alongside Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council members, and community leaders,” Bowles said in the statement. “This event is free and open to the public, and we encourage everyone to attend,” the statement says.

“Washington, D.C. is proud to be a leader in LGBTQIA+ rights and advocacy,” the statement adds. “This ceremony symbolizes our ongoing commitment to equality and the vibrant diversity of our community.”

The event was expected to take place on the sidewalk in front of the Wilson building at the site of its flagpole.

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District of Columbia

Capital Stonewall Democrats clarifies ‘no endorsement’ of Pinto

Says it postponed action on Ward 2 D.C. race until November

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D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The president of the Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political group, expressed regret that he did not clarify in an announcement earlier this week that the organization chose to postpone deciding whether to endorse D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) in the city’s June 4 primary election because she is running unopposed in the primary.

“I misspoke, and I take responsibility for that,” Michael Haresign, the group’s president, told the Washington Blade on Thursday. Haresign said that he regrets that he did not inform the Blade in a May 21 interview at a post endorsement party the group held that Pinto’s name was not on the endorsement ballot the group sent to its members earlier this month to vote on the endorsements.

Based on a press release issued by the group on May 21, the Blade reported that Capital Stonewall Democrats announced it had endorsed just four candidates appearing on D.C.’s June 4 primary ballot – President Joe Biden, D.C. Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Janeese Lewis Geroge (D-Ward 4), and D.C.’s U.S. Shadow Representative Oye Owolewa (D).

Among the candidates not endorsed that surprised some in the LGBTQ community were Pinto and D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D),  who, like Pinto, is a strong LGBTQ community supporter. In the group’s May 21 press release it did not disclose that Pinto’s name was not on the group’s endorsement ballot.

Elizabeth Mitchell, Capital Stonewall’s Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs, and Austin Naughton, a member of the group’s endorsement committee from Ward 2, contacted the Blade by email on May 23 to point out that the group decided at the committee’s recommendation to postpone a decision on whether to endorse Pinto, and the membership did not vote on a Pinto endorsement.

 “We made a careful and considerate decision as an election committee to not impose upon CM Pinto’s busy schedule at this time as there was no challenger for the primary,” Mitchell told the Blade in an email. “We assured CM Pinto and her campaign that we would revisit the subject of endorsement after the primary as it’s possible a challenger may emerge at that time,” said Mitchell, who added that the group was unaware of anyone emerging to challenge Pinto in the November election.

“As such, we did not include her on our endorsement ballot,” Mitchell said. Mitchell was also referring to the decision not to invite Pinto to one of the group’s candidate forums related to the June 4 primary, even though Pinto made it clear she would be happy to participate in a forum.  

No candidates have emerged in the June 4 primary to challenge Pinto either as Democrats or as members of the city’s two other registered political parties – the Republican and Statehood Green parties. An independent candidate could emerge to challenge Pinto in the November general election, and voters are eligible to vote for a write-in candidate in both the primary and general election.

Mitchell said Norton’s office did not respond to an invitation to participate in the Capital Stonewall Democrats first of two candidate forums and told the group a conflict in her schedule prevented Norton from attending the group’s second candidates forum.

“Her office sent us a very professional letter explaining that she had a prior engagement the evening of our forum and would be unable to attend,” Mitchell said. “We explained that to our members,” according to Mitchell, who added, “She was on our ballot and failed to receive enough votes to win an endorsement.”

 Under the group’s endorsement policy, candidates must receive at least 60 percent of the vote from the members to receive an endorsement. Under that policy, Haresign said the group also did not make an endorsement for the Ward 7 and Ward 8 D.C. Council races or in the race for the D.C. U.S. Shadow Senator seat because no candidate received a 60 percent vote threshold.

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