March 5, 2010 at 8:51 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Marriage law prompts gay Md. couple to move to D.C.

DeWayne Davis (left) and Kareem Murphy of Silver Spring, Md., are selling their home and moving to D.C. to enjoy the benefits of marriage. (DC Agenda photo by Michael Key)

Kareem Murphy and DeWayne Davis of Silver Spring, Md., have been together for nearly 19 years.

The two gay men, who are active members of D.C.’s Metropolitan Community Church, said they have been grappling for several years over whether to remain in Maryland or move back to the District, where they lived in the 1990s.

“Moving back to D.C. was attractive, but when the marriage issue took off it made the choice between Maryland and D.C. very clear in D.C.’s favor,” said Murphy, a lobbyist with a firm that represents local municipal governments.

“It kind of sealed the deal,” he said, referring to the D.C. same-sex marriage law that took effect Wednesday.

The couple has placed their Silver Spring house up for sale and is actively looking for a new home in the District.

Murphy and Davis, both 38 and graduates of Howard University, belong to a demographic group that gay activists and city officials say they will closely monitor over the next year or two to measure the economic impact of same-sex marriage in the nation’s capital.

An analysis prepared by the staff of D.C.’s chief financial officer estimates that the city would see a multi-million dollar increase in tax and business revenue during the first few years of legalized gay marriage. The tax and business revenue would be generated by a surge in weddings for same-sex couples from other states as well as from the District and nearby suburbs.

Studies conducted in other states that have legalized same-sex marriage have also found that gay male and lesbian couples have moved into those states for the sole purpose of being able to marry.

Davis, a former congressional staffer and lobbyist, recently left the realm of politics to enter D.C.’s Wesley Theological Seminary to become a minister. He said he and Murphy are rearranging their lives to move into the District not because of economic issues but because marriage is an important component of their faith-based beliefs.

“It has been made that much more important for us because we really want to be married,” Davis said. “We’ve called ourselves married and we’ve debated many times about going places to get married. But we’ve always said we didn’t want to move out of this area to marry.

“If we were going to marry, we wanted to be here, where we are. And so that was a deliberate decision we made. It was so important to us that this was going to happen in D.C.”

Murphy and Davis’ decision to move from Maryland to the District comes at a time when both jurisdictions have been rocked by ongoing struggles between same-sex marriage supporters and opponents.

In D.C., an ongoing campaign by Bishop Harry Jackson, a minister from Beltsville, Md., to overturn the city’s same-sex marriage law through proposed ballot measures and court injunctions appears to have been halted for the time being. The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied Jackson’s request for a stay to prevent the marriage law from taking effect March 3.

In Maryland, a long-awaited legal opinion by state Attorney General Douglas Gansler saying out-of-state same-sex marriages appear to have full legal standing under Maryland law has drawn the ire of conservative members of the state legislature.

Officials with Equality Maryland have hailed Gansler’s Feb. 24 opinion as an important breakthrough in efforts to bring about same-sex marriage equality in the state. But Equality Maryland Executive Director Morgan Meneses-Sheets acknowledged that the Gansler opinion has stirred up anti-gay groups and lawmakers who are mobilizing to block a same-sex marriage equality bill that activists hope to persuade the legislature to pass in 2011.

Meanwhile, Equality Maryland and other LGBT groups are studying the Gansler opinion and the response by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to determine what, if any, marital rights and benefits same-sex couples in Maryland can realize in their home state if they marry in other jurisdictions, including D.C.

Gansler has said his opinion was based on a careful legal analysis showing that most lawful marriages from other states — including same-sex marriages — are recognized under Maryland law. But he noted that the state’s high court would have to make the final decision on same-sex marriage recognition if opponents challenge state agencies that provide marital rights and benefits to gay couples.

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

  • I hope the move goes smoothly for them, but I would have waited to see what happens in MD before I made a decision to move. There are so many downsides to DC versus MD. Higher taxes, higher insurance rates, no representation in Congress are just a few of the downsides.

  • My partner and I sold our house in Alexandria and moved into the District last October. The timing of the sale was fortuitous, but with the passage of the gay-hate amendment to the Virginia state constitution in 2006, we knew we had no future in a hate state. We were planning to move in a few years time, but circumstances were such that it just worked out last fall. We were able to sell our place and move into DC and at least enjoy the protections of the Domestic Partnership laws. Now we are going to be married this fall.

    Equality is good all around!

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