By Jessica Gresko
ABOVE PHOTO: Candy Holmes, left, of Washington, affixes a marriage equality pin to her partner of 14 years, Darlene Garner, on arriving at Superior Court to obtain their marriage licenses after the District of Columbia legalized gay marriage in Washington, on Wednesday, March 3, 2010.
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
WASHINGTON – One bride wore a knee-length lace dress and pearls. The other bride wore a yellow shirt and white suit. And when a pastor pronounced them “partners in life this day and for always” last Tuesday, they hugged and smiled in front of wedding guests and nearly a dozen TV cameras and reporters.
On the first day same-sex couples could marry in Washington, brides Angelisa Young and Sinjoyla Townsend were the first of three couples taking the plunge in morning ceremonies at the offices of the Human Rights Campaign, which does advocacy work on gay, lesbian and transgender issues. Other ceremonies were planned throughout the day.
“Today was like a dream for me,” Young said.
The Rev. Darlene Garner married her partner, the Rev. Candy Holmes, both of Metropolitan Community Churches, a Christian group that primarily serves the gay and lesbian community.
“Equality and justice for all now includes us,” Garner said.
Fifteen licenses were picked up in the first hour the marriage bureau was open and two couples quickly got married and returned to pick up their certificates, courthouse spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz said. More couples were also coming last Tuesday to apply for licenses.
Rebecca and Delia Taylor picked up their license and immediately were married outside the courthouse by a minister friend. The couple said they long ago exchanged rings and considered themselves married. Still, they were grinning after picking up their certificate back inside the courthouse following the ceremony.
“We’ve referred to each other as wives,” Rebecca Taylor said. “It’s just a legal document, so if anything happens to one of us, we have rights.”
But Delia Taylor said she found it moving to recite the vows. “My parents have a wonderful marriage,” she said.
Young and Townsend married in a room with about 100 guests sitting on white chairs and standing next to bouquets of white snapdragons and yellow chrysanthemums, roses and carnations. A cellist played before the ceremony, and cream and gray programs announced the names of the three pairs along with: “Congratulations to the couples on this historic day.”
D.C. bakery Cakelove supplied a three-tiered butter-cream frosted cake with a fresh strawberry filling for each couple.
About 150 couples were eligible to pick up marriage licenses last Tuesday after applying on the first day the licenses were made available. Many of them stood in line for four or more hours prior to Wednesday. Townsend and Young were the first in line that day.
The District of Columbia is the sixth place in the country permitting same-sex unions. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont also issue same-sex couples licenses.
Couples had a variety of plans for their ceremonies. One couple planned to marry Tuesday at All Souls Church, the Unitarian Universalist house of worship where Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the bill legalizing the unions in December. District residents Eva Townsend and Shana McDavis-Conway said they were planning a wedding Tuesday by their plot in a community garden, where they have grown carrots and potatoes.
Other couples said they already had ceremonies and would simply wed at the courthouse, which has space for about 15 people in a ceremony room. Most of those celebrations will take place during the weeks of March 22 and March 29, courthouse spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz said.
Normally, the courthouse hosts four to six weddings a day, but over the next several weeks they are expecting 10 to 12 per day because of the demand for same-sex ceremonies. Some courtrooms and judge’s chambers may be used for the ceremonies, with the couple’s OK. The court’s official marriage booklet has been updated so that the ceremony will end by pronouncing the couple “legally married” as opposed to “husband and wife.”