After overcoming many hurdles, a gay
marriage law took effect in the District of Columbia Wednesday.
The law's two final challenges were
overcome late on Tuesday. The Supreme
Court refused a last-minute challenge to the law and a 30-day
Congressional review period ended without action. Congress has final
say on the laws approved by the District.
Gay and lesbian couples can apply for a
marriage license starting today, but must wait the customary
three-day period before marrying. Officials say applications will
take an extra three days to process, making Tuesday the first day gay
couples could marry.
The AP reported that at least 16
couples greeted courthouse workers as they opened for business at
8:30AM. By 9AM, the number had increased to 60, according to the
A lesbian couple together for 12 years
arrived at 6AM to claim the first spot in line. Sinjoyla Townsend,
41, and Angelina Young, 47, told the news agency that it was like
waking up on Christmas.
Gay activists cheered, calling
Wednesday “a day of jubilation.”
“The issuance of marriage licenses to
same-sex couples in America's capital marks a significant victory for
the national movement to secure the freedom to marry,” Evan
Wolfson, executive director of Freedom
to Marry, a group that lobbies for marriage equality, said, “and
a great joy for DC couples who no longer need to leave home to secure
the protections and responsibilities of marriage for their families.”
Opponents of the law appear to have
exhausted their legal options to head off the law from going into
effect. In denying an emergency stay Tuesday, Chief Justice John
Roberts, a Bush appointee, said he believed the full court was
unlikely to take up the measure, adding, “it has been the practice
of the Court to defer to the decision of the courts of the District
of Columbia on matters of exclusively local concern.”
Opponents appear likely to continue to
pursue an effort to place a referendum on gay marriage on the ballot.
They say voters should decide the law, not 13 elected officials.
The matter, however, has already met with strong resistance from the
city government and local courts.
Openly gay DC Councilman David Catania
(I-At Large) sponsored two measures relating to gay marriage. Last
spring, the council approved a bill that recognized the marriages of
gay couples performed outside the District, effectively allowing gay
and lesbian couples to marry so long as they hop on a train to a
nearby state where the institution is legal. He introduced his gay
marriage bill in October and council members approved the measure in
Catholic Charities, the social services
arm of the Archdiocese of Washington, ended its foster care program
rather than serve gay couples and altered its health coverage to
exclude spouses to avoid offering benefits to gay couples. The
church had lobbied heavily for an exception to the law, at one point
threatening to walk away from providing thousands of people in the
District with social services if lawmakers approved Catania's bill,
including feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless.
Five mostly New England states have
legalized gay marriage, including Connecticut, Vermont,
Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Iowa. Maine lawmakers approved a
gay marriage law last year, but the law was repealed by voters before
it took effect.