Va. Couple Nearly Sidesteps State Ban on Gay Marriage

By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Without the aid of lawyers, advocates or lawmakers, a Virginia couple almost succeeded in getting around the state's same-sex marriage ban.


But instead of enjoying wedded bliss, Justin (pronounced "juh-STEEN") L. McCain, 18, and Antonio E. Blount, 31, had been awaiting a decision on whether they would be charged in Newport News with providing false information when applying for their marriage license.

Yesterday, city Commonwealth's Attorney Howard E. Gwynn announced that he had concluded his investigation and that there would be no charges.

"They swore an oath when they made the application, but 'bride' and 'groom' are not defined in the law of Virginia," said Jack Fitzpatrick, spokesman for Gwynn's office. "Whether they were intending to deceive or not is not something we can get into their minds on." He added that "changes have been made to prevent that problem from happening again."

The near-nuptials began when the couple arrived at Newport News Circuit Court on March 24 to apply for a marriage license. McCain, who court employees said appeared to be a woman, presented a Virginia driver's license and filled out the section of the application labeled "bride." Court employees commented on "what pretty skin" McCain had, a court official said.

Before long, the two were on their way to Norfolk, marriage license in hand.

When they arrived at Norfolk Circuit Court later that day, little besides McCain's first name on the marriage license -- Justin -- caught the attention of Al Coward, the Norfolk marriage commissioner who performed the ceremony in less than 15 minutes.

"I said, 'I think the clerk has made a mistake,' " Coward said. "He/she said, 'No, that's the way it is.' I said, 'Ooo-kay.' . . . There's a lot of people that come in with strange names that are spelled differently."

Coward, 70, said the two were wearing street clothes, although he did not recall their specific physical appearances.

"It was just a regular day, a normal wedding. . . . Doubt never entered my mind because they had the license," he said.

The marriage might have gone virtually unnoticed had McCain not returned to the Newport News clerk's office in May to apply for an eye-catching name change: Penelopsky Aaryonna Goldberry.

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