News / USA

Gay Marriage Law Takes Effect in Washington

Tobey Slagenweit-Coffman (left) and his partner in front of DC Court Building, 3 Mar 2010
Tobey Slagenweit-Coffman (left) and his partner in front of DC Court Building, 3 Mar 2010
David Dyar

Same-sex couples can now legally marry in the Washington, D.C.. The U.S. capital's new law allowing homosexual couples to marry took effect Wednesday after much controversy.

Outside Washington's Superior Court House, members of the media congregated to record the anger, even insults, but also the joy brought on by the first day of the gay marriage law in the nation's capital. "We feel the history of it, we do. We know this is a historic moment and we're glad of it. We're glad to be a part of it," said Candy Holmes, a supporter of the marriage law.

It is a day Darlene Garner and Candy Holmes thought would never come.  They met at church and have been together for 14 years.  They say everyone should have the right to marry.

"As citizens of this country we believe also in equality and justice for all. And now it also includes us," said Garner.

Tobey Slagenweit-Coffman and his partner also say this issue is about equality. "We've been together four years and it's wonderful that we're no longer completely second class citizens. We're one step closer to being one equal nation,"  said Slagenweit-Coffman.

Washington's city council in December approved a law legalizing same sex marriage.  Opponents say District of Columbia residents should have been able to vote on the issue.  But Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court rejected that argument.  He said the high court defers local issues to local courts in Washington.  And the local courts have refused a request for a referendum from the opponents.

Holmes says these protesters against gay marriage do not bother her. "We are recognizing that God is about love and marriage is about love and that's our focus," she said.

Reverend Rob Schenck, representing the National Clergy Council, opposes same sex marriage. "Marriage by universal moral codes that have been held for thousands of year by virtually every culture reserves the sanctity of a sexual relationship as between a man and a woman and that's just the fact we are architecturally built that way we're biochemically built that way, we're designed that way for pocreation," he said.

Same sex marriage is an issue that has divided the different denominations of Christians.  Holmes and Garner also are Christian ministers.  They say their church has embraced them and now their commitment to each other is finally recognized by law. These Washington couples cannot get married on the same day they will apply for a license. Under the law they have to wait three days before the court will issue them a marriage license.

The District of Columbia now joins five states -- Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- with a law legalizing same sex marriage.

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