“We’re finally getting recognition for what we already have,” said,Mike Slagenweit-Coffman,29. “And what if something changes and somebody drops an axe,which is why we’re doing it now.”
Wednesday was the first day same-sex couples could receive marriage licenses in the nation’s capital,and more than 70 couples had lined up by 9 a.m.,despite a handful of protesters outside.
The court normally issues 10 to 12 marriage licenses a day. A spokesman for the clerk’s office said it issued 151 licenses Wednesday,perhaps four or five to heterosexual couples.
The first same-sex marriages won’t take place until Tuesday because the city has a three-day waiting period. The D.C. Council passed the measure in December. It had to survive a court challenge and a 30-day congressional review before taking effect Tuesday.
Tobey Slagenweit-Coffman,35,a librarian for Voice of America,said the couple feels they have already been married in the eyes of God,but they’re looking forward to the legal benefits. Mike Slagenweit-Coffman is in his third year at Wesley Theological Seminary,and the couple hopes to be able to live in married-student housing.
“We’re defying the odds right now,” Mike Slagenweit-Coffman said. “We defied the odds when we met online,and we defied the odds by getting number 13.”
Couples received numbers to mark their places in the line,which wrapped around the hallway. But it wasn’t a boring line. Couples chatted with their neighbors,everyone applauded and congratulated nearlyweds as they left the office and organizations passed out pens,pins,marriage calendars and cupcakes.
Kamala Vasagan and Kate Driscoll said they recognized several people in line from the Human Rights Campaign,the nation’s largest gay rights advocacy group.
“We met through the Human Rights Campaign,which helped to do this,” Kate Driscoll said. “So it’s exciting.”
The couple said they’d been together more than six years,but had been waiting for the opportunity to legally wed at home.
Carol and Barbra Bustard-Burnside,both 54,came to D.C. Superior Court Tuesday in matching outfits ready to get married. But they were a day early.
After hearing Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler’s comments last week that Maryland would recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages,the couple decided to legally tie the knot. But a clerk told them they would have to come back the next day.
“I’m like,‘What do they only take gay couples on Wednesday?!'” Barbra Bustard-Burnside said.
Carol Bustard-Burnside said they considered themselves married on July 19,2000,but they want to make it official.
“In a way,we might feel more married,” she said. “I kept pinching myself saying,‘This is legal.'”
An Episcopal priest,Carol said she often counsels straight couples about marriage and asks them what marriage means. Most don’t have an answer.
“But gay couples can define it six ways to Sunday,” she said.
She gives the straight couples an assignment to research not marriage,but divorce. She said many people don’t understand marriage also is a legal contract.
“We’ve only been able to make a spiritual commitment,and yet this is a separate issue,” she said. “Now,we can choose between the two,or both.”
Bob McDermott,64,and James Genther,61,said they had been together 31 years and were ready to finally make their domestic partnership legal. Genthe said he and McDermott,both retired from the Library of Congress,are excited it’s happening in Washington,but they want it for the whole country.
“The thing is 31 years ago we never would have thought this would have happened,” he said. “It wasn’t even on the radar.”
McDermott said that other than becoming next of kin,he is most excited about filling out forms.
“I’m a literalist,so single wasn’t right and married wasn’t right either,” he said. “Now we can say husband,instead of significant other or partner.”