Published March 09, 2010
Dozens of same-sex couples made a historic walk down the aisle in Washington Tuesday as gay marriage became legal in the nation's capital.
Tuesday marked the first day same-sex couples in the District of Columbia could pick up their marriage licenses and say "I do," after the law changed last week.
One groom-to-be, Jeremy Moon, said the day held great meaning for the gay community.
"It's been an issue for a long time," said Moon, who planned to marry Brian Legaspi on Tuesday morning. "People have not been able to make the same commitment as others, and finally D.C. has done the right thing."
One hour after the district's marriage bureau opened, 15 same-sex couples had picked up their marriage licenses, and two had already gotten married and returned to pick up their certificates, courthouse spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz said.
Some couples planned ceremonies later in the day at a gay rights group's office, while others said they planned to wait and have more elaborate celebrations.
About 150 couples were eligible to collect their marriage licenses Tuesday after applying last Wednesday, the first day licenses were made available. The District has a mandatory three-business-day waiting period.
Members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church came in from Topeka, Kan., last week to protest the spread of marriage rights to homosexual couples.
"The lava under this Earth's crust is busting loose all over this place," group member Tim Phelps told MyFoxDC. "This nation is going to be utterly destroyed and it's going to be with fire."
But the gay couples who came for marriage licenses had religious supporters outside the courthouse.
"The Bible supported polygamy. A man could have many wives," Rabbi Arthur Blecher of Temple Beth Chai said. "Religious institutions have changed the concept of marriage over time, and the biblical precedent does not apply. Nobody in America is supporting polygamy."
Brian Brown, executive director for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), is pushing for a vote on same-sex marriage.
"It is very disappointing that voters in the District of Columbia have been precluded from exercising their constitutional right to a referendum so that they could decide for themselves whether the Council's act to redefine marriage should be allowed to stand," he said in a written statement.
"However, this battle is far from over. While same-sex marriages will be permitted in the District for the time being, NOM will continue to fight to get an initiative on the ballot to restore marriage to what it has always been -- the union of one man and one woman," he said.
Washington is the sixth place in the United States currently permitting same-sex unions, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. Once couples pick up their license, they have to have the person who performs their marriage sign it and then return it to the marriage bureau to be recorded.
Three same-sex weddings were planned for Tuesday morning at the office of the Human Rights Campaign, which does advocacy work on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. Later, a couple had a ceremony planned at All Souls Church -- the same place where Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the bill legalizing the unions in December.
Other couples said they had 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, Gurowitz said.
Normally, the courthouse has four to six weddings a day, but over the next several weeks they are expecting 10 to 12 per day. 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."
More than 300 people applied for marriage licenses from Wednesday to Friday, almost all same-sex couples, Gurowitz said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.