For D.C. gay couples, the wait is over

Angelisa Young and Sinjoyla Townsend got up before dawn to come to the courthouse. So did Rocky Galloway and Reggie Stanley. Then came Cuc Vu and Gwen Migita. They all came to do something they’ve been waiting for years to do: apply for a marriage license.

The scene outside the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse in downtown D.C. Wednesday morning was a milestone moment for supporters of gay marriage, as the day was the first in which same-sex couples could apply for marriage licenses in the District. Same-sex marriage is only legal in five states besides D.C.

The first three same-sex couples in line at the courthouse Wednesday morning were followed throughout the day by dozens of other couples, and by the end of the day about 150 couples had applied, according to an Associated Press report.

“We kind of went through the motions of getting ready for the application, and then when we came out [of the room], though, I just felt like a different woman,” Vu said outside the courthouse.

Though same-sex marriage opponents tried to stop gay marriage legalization in the District, even a last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court Tuesday failed to stop the opening. A 30-day Congressional review period, required for laws in D.C., went by without halting the gay marriage legislation, which was signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty in December after being approved by the D.C. Council.

Young and Townsend, the first couple in line, arrived at 6 a.m. There were about 50 couples waiting in a fourth-floor hallway when the Marriage Bureau opened.

The happy, yet calm atmosphere was broken by a small cheer when the first 10 couples were let in at 8:30 a.m. Just after 9 a.m., the couples emerged to the sound of applause.

Couples can pick up their marriage licenses Tuesday. After the newly licensed couples become officially married – at a time of their choosing – they will have the same rights that heterosexual couples do, impacting their taxes, medical care options and other legal rights.

Vu, who works for the Human Rights Campaign, said Wednesday she finally feels like she has full citizenship for the first time since moving to the U.S. in 1975 and becoming a naturalized citizen in the mid 1990s.

“That is a huge thing, because I think that is what we all want for our brothers and sisters and our friends and family,” Vu said.

Some couples – like Chris McLaurin, an assistant director in GW’s Undergraduate Admissions Office and his partner, Devin Crock – who were applying for a license said they wanted to come the courthouse on the first day due to the risk of the law being overturned. The pair arrived at 7 a.m. and were number 16 in line, but were surprised that there were few people – and protesters – outside.

“Everyone’s friendly and everyone’s excited. I’m sure this is pretty remarkable for the staff to see people excited about filling out an application,” Crock said.

As couples celebrated outside the courthouse, protesters from Westboro Baptist Church – a deeply controversial and anti-gay church in Kansas – began to demonstrate, sporting T-shirts that read godhatesfags.com and holding signs that said America was doomed.

Counter-protesters sang songs to drown out what protesters said as the couples met with the media.

Cathy Renna of Renna Communications, which represents gay and lesbian groups, said the protesters had the right to protest and the right to free speech.

“The thing with Phelps is when the cameras go away, they leave. They’re here to get attention. Their message just frankly is disgusting,” Renna said.

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