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First gay marriages in District performed

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In a joint ceremony at the Human Rights Campaign, three of the first gay couples to marry under the city's new law said their vows in emotional services that underscored the historic significance of the day for Washington, D.C. Angelisa Young and Sinjoyla Townsend, Reggie Stanley and Rocky Galloway, and Darlene Garner and Candy Holmes, exchanged their rings Tuesday.

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By Ann E. Marimow and Keith L. Alexander
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

There were yellow roses, champagne toasts and tiered cakes.

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There were tuxedos, lace dresses and Pachelbel's Canon in D.

This D.C. watershed moment was bursting with pride and happiness. Yet it was also tinged with memories of political struggles and legal battles.

On Tuesday, the District for the first time issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples, some of whom married in ceremonies across the city -- from a D.C. Superior Court chamber to a Unitarian church in Northwest.

The District follows five states that allow same-sex couples to marry. It has issued 42 such licenses and received 12 signed certificates, indicating that at least 12 couples were married by the time the marriage bureau closed at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

About 150 couples from the District, Maryland and Virginia filed applications to marry last Wednesday, the first day it was possible under a new law. Like all engaged couples in the District, they had to abide by the city's three-day waiting period before getting hitched.

As the couples exchanged wedding bands, their vows underscored the historic significance of the day, a high point in a more than 30-year effort by gay rights activists.

"Marriage is a gift, but until this day in the District of Columbia, this gift has been denied," the Rev. Dwayne Johnson of the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington said as he declared Darlene Garner and Lorilyn "Candy" Holmes of Laurel "legally married" during one of three ceremonies at the downtown headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign. "Today, your love for each other knows no limits. It is free."

'Profoundly rewarding'

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who signed the legalization measure in December, invoked his parents' interracial marriage as he congratulated the newlyweds at a news conference. The weddings, he said, "were a great step forward for equality and for our city that has always been a standard-bearer for treating people equally and justly."

Among the more than 100 guests, friends and relatives of the three couples at the HRC were council members David A. Catania (I-At Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who are gay.

Catania, the leading sponsor of the bill, which passed the D.C. Council 11 to 2, called the moment "the most profoundly rewarding day. . . . I could not be prouder of this city."

The couples were also joined by Frank Kameny, one of the founders of the gay rights movement, who was fired from his federal government job in 1957 for being gay. He hailed the event as a "major victory" but cautioned the crowd not to lose sight of the work ahead in other states and with the federal government, which is prevented by the Defense of Marriage Act from recognizing same-sex marriages.


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