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Jubilant gay, lesbian couples begin to wed in D.C.

More than 100 seek marriage license in first hours

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(Video by Steve Fox)

Washington, D.C., became the nation’s sixth jurisdiction to allow same-sex marriage Wednesday when it opened its marriage license application process to gay and lesbian couples.

More than one dozen couples lined up outside the D.C. Superior Court building — some arriving even before sunrise — to become the first same-sex pairs to obtain their applications to wed. Couples alternately smiled and wept as emotion swept the crowd.

“Love has won out over fear,” said Rev. Dennis Wiley, co-pastor at Covenant Baptist Church and co-chair of DC Clergy United for Marriage Equality. “Equality has won out over prejudice. Faith has won out over despair.”

Because of a mandatory waiting period, couples that applied for marriage licenses Wednesday won’t be able to marry until March 9.

But the Human Rights Campaign, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and other advocacy groups that have long sought same-sex marriage rights in the nation’s capital applauded Wednesday’s enactment of the Religious Freedom & Civil Marriage Equality Act of 2009.

“This law is an important step toward equal dignity, equal respect and equal rights for all residents of our nation’s capital,” said Joe Solmonese, HRC’s president. “Today represents a hard-fought victory for D.C. residents and a poignant reminder — here in the home of our federal government and most cherished national monuments — of the historic progress being made toward ensuring equality for all across the nation.”

Solmonese and Rea Carey, the Task Force’s executive director, thanked D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and D.C. City Council members who supported the same-sex marriage effort for their commitment to equality.

More than 100 same-sex couples applied for D.C. marriage licenses during the first hours they were available. (Photo by Joe Tresh)

“This is a profoundly moving moment for many D.C. same-sex couples and their families,” Carey said. “To finally be able to share and celebrate one’s love and commitment both publicly and legally is a lifelong dream for many.”

Couples applied for their marriage licenses one day after U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts denied a request that Washington’s same-sex marriage law be prevented from taking effect, a move that would have given opponents more time to organize a voter referendum to overturn the law.

Roberts, who ruled on the matter on behalf of the court, issued a three-page decision saying Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church and others opposed to the marriage law failed to show in their request that they could win the case on its merits, or that allowing the law to take effect would cause them irreparable harm.

Roberts said the opponents’ argument that the D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics acted improperly by denying the referendum request on groups that it would violate the city’s Human Rights Act “has some force.”

“Without addressing the merits of the petitioners’ underlying claim, however, I conclude that a stay is not warranted,” he wrote.

Roberts cited past rulings of the Supreme Court that have said it’s the court’s practice to “defer to the decisions of the courts of the District of Columbia on matters of exclusively local concern.” The D.C. Superior Court and Court of Appeals previously ruled against Jackson’s request for a stay of the same-sex marriage law.

“As the courts have uniformly recognized in upholding D.C.’s broad anti-discrimination laws,” Solmonese said, “no one should have to have their marriages — or any of their civil rights — put to a public vote.”

D.C. court officials were quick to welcome the more then 100 same-sex couples that arrived before noon Wednesday to seek a marriage license.

Leah Gurowitz, a court spokesperson, described the courthouse halls as being festive as clerks processed about 20 to 25 couples each hour. She said the couples took to congratulating each other after completing the marriage application process.

“As each couple walks out of the Marriage Bureau — and there’s a long line — everybody claps and cheers,” she said. “People have been very festive.”

Gurowitz said 101 same-sex couples checked in before 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. She noted that so many couples came to the courthouse that additional markers indicating each couple’s position in line were printed.

“It is a line and it’s going to take an hour or two, or for some people three,” she said. “We’re just going as quickly as we can.”

D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield, who oversees the court’s Marriage Bureau, said the influx of marriage license applications was far above average. The court normally gets about 10 to 12 applications each day.

To help reduce wait time and ensure the application process goes smoothly, Satterfield said there are several things same-sex couples can do before they arrive at the courthouse.

“For instance, come with a complete application,” he said. “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.”

Satterfield also noted that couples applying for marriage licenses should bring $35 in cash or a money order, plus $10 for the marriage certificate.

Couples planning to return to the courthouse for a civil marriage ceremony should expect to wait at least 10 days before a time is available, Satterfield said. But once scheduled, same-sex couples need not worry that a court official might decline to marry them.

“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,” he said. “It does so 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.”

Staff writer Lou Chibbaro Jr. contributed to this article.

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Maryland

Montgomery County police chief discusses arrest of trans student charged with planned school shooting

County executive tells news conference student’s trans identity is irrelevant to criminal charge

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(Photo by jiawangkun/Bigstock)

Montgomery County, Md., Police Chief Marcus Jones joined other county and law enforcement officials at a news conference on Friday, April 19, to provide details of the police investigation and arrest of an 18-year-old high school student charged two days earlier with threats of mass violence based on information that he allegedly planed a mass shooting at the high school and elementary school he attended in Rockville, Md.

In charging documents and in a press release issued on April 18, Montgomery County Police identified the arrested student as “Andrea Ye, of Rockville, whose preferred name is Alex Ye.”

One of the charging documents states that a friend of Ye, who police say came forward as a witness who played a crucial role in alerting authorities to Ye’s threats of a school shooting, noted that Ye told the witness that Ye identified as the transgender student he wrote about as character in a 129-page manifesto outlining plans for a school shooting. Police have said Ye told them the manifesto was a fictional story he planned to publish.  

At the news conference on Friday, Police Chief Jones and other law enforcement officials, including an FBI official and Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, referred to the student as Alex Ye and Mr. Ye. None of the officials raised the issue of whether Ye identified as a transgender man, seven though one of the police documents identifies Ye as a “biological female.”

County Executive Elrich appeared to express the views of the public officials at the news conference when one of the media reporters, during a question-and-answer period, asked Elrich why he and the others who spoke at the news conferment failed to “admit that this individual was transgender.”

“Because it’s not a lead,” Elrich replied, asking if the press and law enforcement authorities should disclose that someone arrested for murder is “a white Christian male who’s heterosexual.” Elrich stated, “No, you don’t – You never publish somebody’s sexual orientation when we talk about this. Why you are focusing on this being a transgender is beyond me. It’s not a news story. It is not a crime to  be transgender.”

The reporter attempted to respond but was cut off by the press conference moderator, who called on someone else to ask the next question.

In his remarks at the press conference Chief Jones praised the so far unidentified witness who was the first to alert authorities about Ye’s manifesto appearing to make threats of a mass school shooting.

“Now, this is a situation that highlights  the critical importance of vigilance and community involvement in preventing potential tragedies,” Jones said. “I commend the collaborative efforts of the Montgomery County Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation,  the Rockville City Police Department, and the Montgomery County Public Schools, as well as Montgomery County Health and Human Services,” he told the gathering.

“Thanks to their swift action and cooperation a potentially catastrophic event was prevented,” Jones said.

Jones pointed out that during the current school year, police have received reports of 140 threats to the public schools in Montgomery County. He said after a thorough investigation, none of them rose to the level where an arrest was made. Instead, police and school officials took steps to arrange for the student making the threats and their parents to take remedial action, including providing  mental health services.

“But this case is different,” Jones said. “This case is entirely different that takes it to a different level. It was a concerned witness who brought this matter to light by rereporting the suspect’s manifesto to the authorities. This underscores the value of community engagement and the ‘see something say something’ approach,” he said.

Jones mentioned at the press conference that Ye was  being held without bond since the time of his arrest but was scheduled to appear in court for a bond hearing on Friday shortly after the press conference took place to determine whether he should be released while awaiting trial or continue to be held.

In his manifesto obtained by police, Ye writes about committing a school shooting, and strategizes how to carry out the act. Ye also contemplates targeting an elementary school and says that he wants to be famous.

In charging documents reported on by WJLA 7 and WBAL 11, the 129-page document, which Ye has referred to as a book of fiction, included writings that said, in part:

“I want to shoot up a school. I’ve been preparing for months. The gun is an AR-15. This gun is going to change lives tomorrow … As I walk through the hallways, I cherry pick the classrooms that are the easiest targets. I need to figure out how to sneak the gun in. I have contemplated making bombs. The instructions to make them are surprisingly available online. I have also considered shooting up my former elementary school because little kids make easier targets. High school’s the best target; I’m the most familiar with the layout. I pace around my room like an evil mastermind. I’ve put so much effort into this. My ultimate goal would be to set the world record for the most amount of kills in a shooting. If I have time, I’ll try to decapitate my victims with a knife to turn the injuries into deaths.”

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Maryland

Rockville teen charged with plotting school shooting after FBI finds ‘manifesto’

Alex Ye charged with threats of mass violence

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Alex Ye (Photo courtesy of the Montgomery County Police Department)

BY BRETT BARROUQUERE | A Montgomery County high school student is charged with what police describe as plans to commit a school shooting.

Andrea Ye, 18, of Rockville, whose preferred name is Alex Ye, is charged with threats of mass violence. Montgomery County Police and the FBI arrested Ye Wednesday.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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District of Columbia

New D.C. LGBTQ+ bar Crush set to open April 19

An ‘all-inclusive entertainment haven,’ with dance floor, roof deck

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Crush (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s newest LGBTQ+ bar called Crush is scheduled to open for business at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 19, in a spacious, two-story building with a dance floor and roof deck at 2007 14th St., N.W. in one of the city’s bustling nightlife areas.

A statement released by co-owners Stephen Rutgers and Mark Rutstein earlier this year says the new bar will provide an atmosphere that blends “nostalgia with contemporary nightlife” in a building that was home to a popular music store and radio supply shop.

Rutgers said the opening comes one day after Crush received final approval of its liquor license that was transferred from the Owl Room, a bar that operated in the same building before closing Dec. 31 of last year. The official opening also comes three days after Crush hosted a pre-opening reception for family, friends, and community members on Tuesday, April 16.

Among those attending, Rutgers said, were officials with several prominent local LGBTQ organizations, including officials with the DC Center for the LGBTQ Community, which is located across the street from Crush in the city’s Reeves Center municipal building. Also attending were Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, and Salah Czapary, director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture.  

Rutgers said Crush plans to hold a grand opening event in a few weeks after he, Rutstein and the bar’s employees become settled into their newly opened operations.

“Step into a venue where inclusivity isn’t just a promise but a vibrant reality,” a statement posted on the Crush website says. “Imagine an all-inclusive entertainment haven where diversity isn’t just celebrated, it’s embraced as the very heartbeat of our venue,” the statement says. “Welcome to a place where love knows no bounds, and the only color or preference that matters is the vibrant tapestry of humanity itself. Welcome to Crush.”

The website says Crush will be open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m., Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 3 a.m., and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. It will be closed on Mondays.

Crush is located less than two blocks from the U Street Metro station.

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