D.C. Marriage Bureau would close in a shutdown

Even though the federal government shut down, District residents will still be able to apply for city permits and serve on a jury.

But they won’t be able to tie the knot in D.C. Superior Court.

Court officials have deemed the majority of its operations as essential. That means all trials, hearings and mediations would continue as planned — although there would be fewer staff than usual in the building. But those seeking to marry at the courthouse or apply for a marriage license would have to postpone their plans at least until after the shutdown ends.

While D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said all city services would continue to operate during a shutdown, the judicial branch of the government operates separately.

Court officials said there is a plan to furlough 397 of its 1, 275 employees if the shutdown proceeds. While most services would continue with fewer staffers, the court said in addition to cutbacks at the marriage bureau it would close the law libraries, bar admissions office and a child care center used by adult court visitors.

If the court closes its wedding chapels, it would come amid a recent surge in demand.

Last month, the courthouse added new employees and opened a second chapel to handle an influx of couples applying for licenses or seeking a court marriage ceremony. The court had been receiving between 300 and 400 licenses applications a month, but requests more than doubled in July and August to more than 900 each month.

Court officials cited the heightened demand to the Supreme Court’s ruling in June that struck down a law that denied benefits to legally same-sex couples.

Now, the court is forced, at least temporarily, to put a damper on all the budding “I do’s.” Employees within the court’s marriage bureau were busy Monday calling engaged couples scheduled to be married in the courthouse Tuesday and alerting them that they may have to reschedule.

Officials said couples who already have submitted an application for a marriage license would still be able to pick it up.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.
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