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D.C. chief judge’s advice for couples planning to wed

Clerks can’t refuse to perform civil weddings on religious grounds

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Couples lined up outside D.C. Superior Court on March 3 to obtain same-sex marriage licenses the first day they became available. (Photo by Joe Tresh)

D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield, who oversees the court’s Marriage Bureau, offered advice for same-sex couples coming to the courthouse for the first time to apply for a marriage license or a court officiated civil wedding.

In an interview with DC Agenda on the day before the city’s same-sex marriage law took effect March 3, Satterfield acknowledged the occasion would be “exciting” for gay couples and promised to do all he could to make the license application process run smoothly.

He said that while he could not comment on internal court personnel matters, he made it clear that clerks and other court officials could not decline to perform same-sex wedding on religious or moral grounds, as is the case in other jurisdictions where gay marriage is legal.

“We expect to have anyone doing and officiating weddings to be officiating all weddings,” he said.

Following is a transcript of Satterfield’s interview with DC Agenda:

DC AGENDA: Leah Gurowitz, the court’s public information officer, said you might be able to talk about the procedures at the courthouse for accommodating the city’s new same-sex marriage law.

LEE SATTERFIELD: I thought it would be good to give some information to the public. I know it’s going to be an exciting day tomorrow for a lot of folk who have been waiting and a lot of residents here in D.C. and even elsewhere who may come to D.C. to apply for a marriage license. So I wanted to offer some tips or advice as to how to make this a good experience and a smooth one.

AGENDA: Thank you. What would you suggest people do as the process begins?

SATTERFIELD: We’re open every day during the weekday 8:30 to 5 p.m. We’re available on other days other than [Wednesday]. But for folk who want to come [Wednesday] during what we expect to be a huge rush and a significant increase in numbers, we’re asking people to, number one, come with a lot of patience because we normally get about 10 to 12 applications in a day. And while I’m going to add some staff to the Marriage Bureau so that we can process a significant amount more, and we’re going to work very hard to do so, I expect that there will be some time delays. But we will accommodate everybody. So we’re asking, number one, that people be patient, who decide to come [Wednesday] and the next couple of days soon after the law becomes effective.

And then there are a number of other things they can do. For instance, come with a completed application. We loaded the application on our web site — dccourts.gov, you can go into the Superior Court section — or actually, there’s a link on the front page for folk to go right to the Marriage Bureau section and get the application so they complete it. I think it’s important that folk — some of the things we see happen to folk that end up having to come back is that they don’t come down with their identification because the law requires that you have to be 18 years and older.

And so if there’s one party coming down they may come down with their own but not with their partner’s — so they have to make sure they have some identification, whether it’s a driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, not just for themselves but the person they’re marrying. So those are the kinds of things that trip people up and they end up having to come back again.

We want to try to avoid, particularly when we expect a significant increase. And then, of course, bring money — cash or money order with the amount. The fee is $35 for applying and then, of course, $10 for the marriage certificate, and that could be paid that day. We have a separate finance office for that, or any day up until you get your license. You have to have proof of payment before that — unless you are registered under the D.C. domestic partnership act. Then we’ll waive the fee. But please bring your certificate showing proof that you’re registered to show the clerks so that they can waive the fee.

AGENDA: What’s the procedure for a civil wedding at the courthouse? Isn’t there an additional waiting time for courthouse weddings?

SATTERFIELD: I’m being told now from one of my staff persons that knows all this that when they apply for the application they apply for a civil wedding at that time. So it will probably be 10 days from that time.

AGENDA: Ten days from when they apply for the license?

SATTERFIELD: Ten days or more. We use that as a reasonable period. Obviously, if they want to do it after 14 days or a specific date after the tenth day, we try to set it for that.

AGENDA: If someone does apply for a civil marriage, who exactly performs them? The web site says something about officials from the staff.

SATTERFIELD: Right. In terms of the civil marriages that are conducted at the courthouse, I designated as chief judge through the clerk of the court here a number of staff. Usually they’re supervisors or managers. And I’ve added some more — authorized some more individuals to do the civil marriage. The judges typically are not doing them during the day because they are involved in their dockets, the cases they have to hear each day, which are quite extensive. So very rarely are the judges involved. Sometimes the judges will go up to help out if we have an increased demand and so forth. And so if it’s done at the court it’s usually done by one of the duly sworn officiates that we designate to perform these weddings. And then individuals, judges do them outside of court for individuals who request — usually somebody that knows the judge. It’s that kind of connection. But we very rarely have judges go up there because at the time of the day they would go during the lunch hour and it’s hard to get them up there because of their other responsibilities.

AGENDA: But if a judge knows the couple…

SATTERFIELD: Oh, sure. If the couple arranges with a judge to perform their ceremony, they should bring the judge’s name and add it to the application so that it can be placed on the certificate. Or if it happens later, that’s fine, too. You don’t have to have it on the day that you apply. But judges often perform ceremonies — you just kind of get to them in a different way.

AGENDA: Could they do the ceremonies outside the courthouse, too?

SATTERFIELD: Oh, the judges? That’s where they mostly do them. That’s where the judges typically do them because they don’t do them here. Typically they will do them outside on the weekends or in the evenings, those kinds of things.

AGENDA: To the extent that you can comment, in other states officials are allowed to decline to perform a same-sex marriage if it is against their religious beliefs. Can the officials do that here?

SATTERFIELD: You know the law, as I understand it in the District of Columbia, does not allow that when it comes to employees of the court — it does for clergy and others. It allows them to decline. It doesn’t allow for our folk to do so. While I don’t discuss personnel matters, what I will say is this: We expect to have anyone doing and officiating weddings to be officiating all weddings.

AGENDA: Where is the Marriage Bureau in the courthouse?

SATTERFIELD: It’s on the fourth floor. Another point I want to make: We have three entrances to the courthouse. I only say this for a number of reasons. We expect a lot of activity for [Wednesday] — out front, including our main entrance. And we have construction going on out there. So if citizens come up and they see it’s quite crowded out there, we have another entrance in what we call the John Martial Plaza, which is the family court entrance, which is that plaza between the Municipal Building and our courthouse. And then we have an entrance on our C Street side of the court building. In terms of how busy they are, the main one on Indiana Avenue is the busiest. The family court one is the second busiest, and then C Street is the least busy. So we have three avenues of getting in and getting out. So I don’t know what all the activity is going to be like outside. But we have those three avenues of getting in and getting out. And the Marriage Bureau is on the fourth floor.

AGENDA: Leah Gurowitz said there’s an exception to the ban on cameras in the courthouse for weddings there?

SATTERFIELD: Right. Once we schedule your civil marriage, we give a permission slip so that the guards will allow you to bring a camera in. I’m glad you mentioned that because we don’t allow cameras for anyone coming in the courthouse. So if folk were coming in to apply, that would apply to them, but if you’re coming back to have a ceremony or guests of those who are having the ceremony, we will allow cameras in then. And that’s another reason for when we schedule it we make sure that the person gets permission in order to bring the camera past the guards.

AGENDA: In terms of the applications themselves, I noticed they had not changed as of a few weeks ago. They only had space for one bride and one groom.

SATTERFIELD: We modified them. We put the modified or our new standard form up over the weekend. So it’s there now.

AGENDA: Do the new forms use the term “spouse?”

SATTERFIELD: You can go up there and get it. We have taken out the bride and groom part and just put two spouse sections, and we’re going to use that from here on out for all applicants. We’re trying to keep it simple with one form.

AGENDA: Do you think some might object to that? Would more traditional heterosexual couples still want the terms bride and groom?

SATTERFIELD: But it’s just an application. So we’re willing to deal with that on the application part. That’s something that nobody sees but us. The certificate is what everybody wants out of this, because that’s the legal document joining you.

AGENDA: Would that legal document still say bride and groom if the parties want it?

SATTERFIELD: … We never had that on the form. What we do is we list the names of the parties. So we never had that on the certificate of license anyway.

AGENDA: Could you explain what the certificate of license is?

SATTERFIELD: It’s going to have our seal on it. It’s the certificate of marriage, the license number, and it’s going to duly authorize and celebrate the marriage between the named [parties] — both spouses. It will list their names. And then it’s signed by and stamped by the Clerk of the Court. And then whoever officiates it would have to sign it after the marriage is performed and then agree to send a copy back to us for our records. We keep a copy of it at the court. And they get a very nice copy of the certificate and the officiate is able to keep a copy as well.

AGENDA: Is that the one that goes to a church if the wedding will be held there?

SATTERFIELD: That’s right. This certificate goes to whether it is a civil marriage here in our court or signed by a judge or signed by a clergy. It’s one certificate for all.

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District of Columbia

Bernie Delia, attorney, beloved Capital Pride organizer, dies at 68

Activist worked at Justice Department, White House as attorney

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Bernie Delia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bernie Delia, a founding member of the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most D.C. LGBTQ Pride events, and who served most recently as co-chair of World Pride 2025, which D.C. will be hosting next June, died unexpectedly on Friday, June 21, according to a statement released by Capital Pride Alliance. He was 68.

“It is with great sadness that the Capital Pride Alliance mourns the passing of Bernie Delia,” the statement says. “We will always reflect on his life and legacy as a champion, activist, survivor, mentor, friend, leader, and a true inspiration to the LGBTQ+ community.”

The statement says that in addition to serving six years as the Capital Pride Alliance board president, Delia served for several years as president of Dignity Washington, the local LGBTQ Catholic organization, where he helped create “an environment for spiritual enrichment during the height of the AIDS epidemic.”

“He also had a distinguished legal career, serving as one of the first openly gay appointees at the U.S. Department of Justice and later as an appellate attorney,” the statement reads.

Delia’s LinkedIn page shows that he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for 26 years, serving as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2001 to 2019. Prior to that, he served from 1997 to 2001 as associate deputy attorney general and from 1994 to 1997 served as senior counsel to the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, which provides executive and administrative support for 93 U.S. attorneys located throughout the country.

His LinkedIn page shows he served from January-June 1993 as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel during the administration of President Bill Clinton, in which he was part of the White House staff. And it shows he began his career as legal editor of the Bureau of National Affairs, which published news reports on legal issues, from 1983-1993.

The Capital Pride Alliance statement describes Delia as “an avid runner who served as the coordinator of the D.C. Front Runners and Stonewall Kickball LGBTQ sports groups.”

“He understood the value, purpose, and the urgency of the LGBTQ+ community to work together and support one another,” the statement says. “He poured his soul into our journey toward World Pride, which was a goal of his from the start of his involvement with Capital Pride.”

The statement adds, “Bernie will continue to guide us forward to ensure we meet this important milestone as we gather with the world to be visible, heard, and authentic. We love you, Bernie!”

In a statement posted on social media, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she and her administration were “heartbroken” over the news of Delia’s passing.

“Bernie leaves behind an incredible legacy in our city and country — through his life and advocacy, he helped pave a path for LGBTQIA+ residents in our city and within the federal government to live and work openly and proudly,” the mayor says in her statement.

“He helped transform Capital Pride into one of the largest and most inclusive Pride celebrations in the nation — a true reflection and representation of our people and values,” the statement says. “This is the D.C. that Bernie helped build and that he leaves behind.”

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District of Columbia

D.C. Council budget bill includes $8.5 million in LGBTQ provisions

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal calling for $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for a $21 billion fiscal year 2025 budget for the District of Columbia that includes more than $8.5 million in funding for LGBTQ-related programs, including $5.25 million in support of the June 2025 World Pride celebration that D.C. will be hosting.

Also included in the budget is $1.7 million in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which includes an increase of $132,000 over the office’s funding for the current fiscal year, and a one-time funding of $1 million for the completion of the renovation of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition earlier this year asked both the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to approve $1.5 million for the D.C. Center’s building renovation and an additional $300,000 in “recurring” funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.” In its final budget measure, the Council approved $1 million for the renovation work and did not approve the proposed $600,000 in annual operational funding for the center.

The mayor’s budget proposal, which called for the $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025, did not include funding for the D.C. LGBTQ Center or for several other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition.

At the request of D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member, the Council approved at least two other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition in addition to the funding for the LGBTQ Center. One is $595,000 for 20 additional dedicated housing vouchers for LGBTQ residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness. The LGBTQ housing vouchers are administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The other funding allocation pushed by Parker is $250,000 in funds to support a Black LGBTQ+ History Commission and Black LGBTQIA+ history program that Parker proposed that will also be administered by the LGBTQ Affairs office.

Also at Parker’s request, the Council included in its budget bill a proposal by Parker to change the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to become a “stand-alone entity” outside the Executive Office of the Mayor. Parker told the Washington Blade this change would “allow for greater transparency and accountability that reflects its evolution over the years.”

He said the change would also give the person serving as the office’s director, who is currently LGBTQ rights advocate Japer Bowles, “greater flexibility to advocate for the interest of LGBTQ residents” and give the Council greater oversight of the office. Parker noted that other community constituent offices under the mayor’s office, including the Office of Latino Affairs and the Office of Veterans Affairs, are stand-alone offices.

The budget bill includes another LGBTQ funding provision introduced by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that allocates $100,000 in grants to support LGBTQ supportive businesses in Ward 6 that would be awarded and administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Allen spokesperson Eric Salmi said Allen had in mind two potential businesses on 8th Street, S.E. in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill as potential applicants for the grants.

One is the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are, which had to close temporarily earlier this year due to structural problems in the building it rents. The other potential applicant, Salmi said, is Little District Books, D.C.’s only LGBTQ bookstore that’s located on 8th Street across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

“It’s kind of recognizing Barrack’s Row has a long history of creating spaces that are intended for and safe for the LGBTQ community and wanting to continue that history,” Salmi said  “So, that was his kind of intent behind the language in that funding.”

The mayor’s budget proposal also called for continuing an annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

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Virginia

Suhas Subramanyam wins Democratic primary in Va. 10th Congressional District

Former Obama advisor vows to champion LGBTQ rights in Congress

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Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Fairfax County) (Photo courtesy of Subramanyam's campaign)

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in Congress.

Subramanyam won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District with 30.4 percent of the votes. The Loudoun County Democrat who was an advisor to former President Barack Obama will face Republican Mike Clancy in November’s general election.

“I’m thrilled to be the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 10th, and to have won this election during Pride Month,” Subramanyam told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement. “As I have done in the state legislature and as an Obama White House policy advisor, I will always stand as an ally with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Wexton, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights champion, last September announced she will not seek re-election after doctors diagnosed her with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder she has described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” Wexton is a vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a previous co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force.

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