WASHINGTON: At least 50 same-sex couples were lined up to apply for marriage licences when city offices opened on Wednesday, the day the unions became legal in the nation’s capital.
Cheering erupted from the crowd when the first couple signed in at the city’s marriage bureau inside the Moultrie courthouse, just blocks from the US Capitol. Because of a mandatory waiting period of three business days, however, couples won’t actually be able to marry in the District of Columbia until March 9.
Court officials have been told to expect up to 200 people. They plan to have five people taking applications instead of the usual two. Sinjoyla Townsend, 41, and her partner of 12 years, Angelisa Young, 47, claimed the first spot in line just after 6am. “It’s like waking up Christmas morning,” Young said. “It’s really like a dream come true.”
Mike and Tobey Slagenweit-Coffman of Arlington, Virginia, had a civil union in Vermont and a big church wedding in Minnesota, but wanted to get legally married in DC. Tobey Slagenweit-Coffman said allowing same-sex marriages in the nation’s capital is historic. “It’s signaling definitely a change in the mood of the country,” he said.
Washington will be the sixth place in the nation where gay marriages can take place. Connecticut, Iowa,
Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont currently issue licences to same-sex couples.
To deal with the expected crowd on Wednesday, the marriage bureau will bring in temporary employees to help its regular staff, courthouse spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz said.
To prepare, the marriage bureau has changed its licence applications so they are gender-neutral, asking for the name of each “spouse” rather than the “bride” and “groom.” And at civil marriage ceremonies to be performed in the courthouse, a booklet for the official performing the marriage now reads, “I now pronounce you legally married” instead of “I now pronounce you man and wife.”