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'Today was like a dream'

Couples, D.C. officials celebrate arrival of same-sex marriage




(DC Agenda video by Steve Fox)

Under the watchful eye of nearly two dozen television cameras and news photographers, three same-sex couples took their wedding vows Tuesday morning before about 150 guests at a ceremony held less than a mile from the White House.

The weddings, held at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters, were among the first to take place after the city’s same-sex marriage law took effect last week.

D.C. residents Angelisa Young, 47, and Sinjoyla Townsend, 41, who have been a couple for 12 years, were the first to say “I do” after exchanging rings before a barrage of clicking cameras.

“Today was like a dream for me,” Young said after the ceremony. “I always felt like it would come true. But it’s here now, and it’s really real, we want to thank everyone who made this possible.”

Next to exchange their wedding vows at the ceremony were Reginald Stanley and Rocky Galloway, both 50. As Rev. Sylvia Sumter performed the wedding, the couples’ two 16-month-old daughters watched with interest as they were held in the arms of two adult family members just a few feet away.

The last of the three couples to marry during the HRC ceremony were Rev. Elder Darlene Garner and Rev. Lorilyn Candy Holmes, members of the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, which has a mostly gay congregation. Rev. Dwayne Johnson, pastor of the church, performed the marriage.

“Today, the love you have is recognized by the District of Columbia,” Johnson said. “I now declare you legally married.”

HRC Vice President David Smith said the building’s first-floor meeting hall, which the group calls the Equality Forum, has been host to numerous same-sex commitment ceremonies in the past and the group was delighted to provide its facility for one of the first same-sex marriages in the District.

But while the three weddings at the HRC building drew most of the media spotlight, two other same-sex weddings Tuesday morning held at the D.C. Superior Court building are believed to have been the first such marriages to take place under the city’s Religious Freedom & Marriage Equality Amendment Act.

District residents Jeremy Moon, 31, and Bryan Legaspi, 30, both of whom work in the Obama administration, wed shortly after the court opened at 8:30 a.m. in a courtroom ceremony performed by Judge Brook Hedge.

At the same time, D.C. residents Robb Hawthorne, 24, and James Betz, 23, were married on a plaza outside the courthouse by Rev. Bonnie Berger. Hawthorne and Betz, who met while they were students at George Washington University, both work at the university’s affiliated clinic, Medical Faculty Associates.

Hawthorne said the two met Berger through her role as a chaplain at George Washington University Hospital.

“We arrived at the courthouse at 3:30 in the morning to get in line,” Hawthorne said, noting that the couple wanted to be among the first to pick up their marriage licenses.

The city’s existing marriage law requires a waiting period of three business days between the time people apply for a marriage license and the time it is issued by the court. More than 200 same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses beginning March 3, when the same-sex marriage law took effect, through March 5, according to a court spokesperson. Tuesday was the first day same-sex marriages could be performed.

Among the people attending the ceremony at the HRC building were D.C. Council members David Catania (I-At Large), who wrote and took the lead role in advancing the same-sex marriage bill, and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), a long-time supporter of same-sex marriage rights. Both are gay.

The two were joined after the ceremony by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who stood alongside the newly married couples to congratulate them and talk to reporters. Fenty signed the marriage bill shortly after the City Council passed it 11-2 in December.

“It’s tough to represent a city,” he told the couples. “It’s tough to represent a community, and it’s also tough to represent a nation. But the six of you today do that. Whether you realize it or not, whether you like it or not, you represent what this entire country is about.”

Fenty added, “As mayor of the District of Columbia, I cannot be more excited or proud to be here. I think this is not only a great step forward for all six of you, but…it is also great step forward for equality in general, for our great city…and for our great country.”

Catania, who called the ceremonies “incredibly moving,” drew nods of approval when he compared them in at least one respect to most other weddings.

“Council member Graham said we all cry at weddings and that was especially true today,” Catania said. “This is one of the most profoundly rewarding experiences I’ve ever had the privilege of being a part of.”
Catania and Graham said they never thought they would see same-sex marriage happen in their lifetime.

“There’s been no event in my life that has been more uplifting, more positive, more affirming than these three marriages this morning,” Graham said, “because it says so much about human dignity, about valuing each other or who they are and nothing less — nothing short of that.”

Also attending the ceremony and participating in the press conference was veteran D.C. gay activist Frank Kameny, who is credited with founding the city’s LGBT rights movement.

“This represents a major victory, one that has been in the making for 35 to 40 years, although back then we never remotely thought it would really come to pass,” Kameny said. “And hopefully it sets the tone for other victories. This is not the last that we need. There are others that are in the making, and we’re going to have to continue working on those and hopefully with equal success in the very near future.”

The ceremonies at the HRC building were sponsored by the Campaign for All D.C. Families and D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality, two groups that were part of a coalition of gay and straight organizations that lobbied for the same-sex marriage bill.

Rick Imirowicz, 43, and Terrance Heath, 41, both District residents and a couple for ten years, were married Tuesday afternoon at All Souls Unitarian Church in Northwest D.C. Rev. Robert Hardies, pastor of the church, performed the ceremony.

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  1. Chocolatebear

    March 10, 2010 at 8:36 am

    This is so beautiful it just brings tears to my eyes!!! You go DC!!!!

  2. Jerry

    March 10, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    We have just moved one step closer to the day when all people are accepted as fully human, without consideration of gender, ethnicity, racial make up, sexual orientation, or religious preference. All days that promote that is a good day. Today is a good day. I offer my best wishes to the couples who have committed their futures to each other today.

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Anti-LGBTQ group claims Va. marriage amendment repeal will legalize polygamy

State Sen. Adam Ebbin rejected claim during committee hearing



census, gay news, Washington Blade
(Bigstock photo)

A representative of an anti-LGBTQ group on Tuesday said the repeal of Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman would pave the way for the legalization of polygamy in the state.

“There are some, at least, very legitimate concerns about whether this would actually legalize polygamy, among other forms of marriage,” said Family Foundation of Virginia Legal Counsel Josh Hetzler.

Hetzler made the comment during a Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee hearing on state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. Ebbin, who is the only openly gay member of the Virginia Senate, in response to the claim noted polygamy is a crime under Virginia and federal law.

“I take offense to the Family Foundation’s characterization that this would allow polygamy,” said Ebbin. “This has nothing to do with polygamy, what this has to do with is equality.”

Carol Schall, who, along with her wife, Mary Townley, joined a federal lawsuit that paved the way for marriage equality in Virginia, and outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck are among those who testified in support of the resolution. The committee approved it by a 10-5 vote margin.

Virginia voters approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment in 2006.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in Virginia since 2014.

The General Assembly last year approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Ebbin earlier this month told the Washington Blade he remains “hopeful” the resolution will pass in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. Prospects that the resolution will pass in the Republican-controlled state House of Delegates are far less certain.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin before his election reiterated his opposition to marriage equality. Youngkin, however, stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

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Loudoun County removes LGBTQ book from school libraries

Superintendent overrules committee that called for retaining ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’



A Loudoun County, Va., School Board committee on Jan. 13 voted to uphold a decision by Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler to remove from the school system’s high school libraries a controversial LGBTQ-themed book called “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

The book is an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe that contains descriptions and comic book style drawings of sexual acts that e uses to tell the story of eir journey and struggle in discovering eir gender identity.

Although the book has received an American Library Association award for its relevance to young adults, critics in school systems throughout the country have said its sexually explicit content is not suitable for school libraries.  

The action by the School Board committee came after Ziegler asked a separate school system committee to review the book to determine if its content was appropriate for school libraries. Loudoun Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard told the Washington Post the committee, in a split vote, recommended that the book be retained in high school libraries.

According to Byard, Ziegler overruled the committee’s recommendation and ordered that the book be removed from the libraries. Byard said that decision was then appealed to a School Board appeals committee, which voted 3-0 to uphold Ziegler’s decision.

The decision by Ziegler to remove the book from school libraries took place about two months after Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools officials decided to return “Gender Queer” and another LGBTQ-themed book called “Lawn Boy” to their high school libraries after temporarily pulling the two books in response to complaints by some parents and conservative activists.

Two committees appointed by Fairfax school officials to review the two books that consisted of educators, school officials, parents, and students concluded that, while the books contained sexually explicit content, it did not cross the line as pornography or depictions of pedophilia as some opponents claimed.

“The decision reaffirms Fairfax County Public Schools’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” a statement released by Fairfax school officials explaining their decision to retain the two books in their libraries said.

“Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

State Del. John Avioli (R-Stanton) introduced House Bill 1126



The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years.”

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