Same-sex couples lead to marriage licenses doubling

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Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

An unusual thing happened on the way to the altar in the District over the past 12 months.

At least as many same-sex couples as heterosexual couples - and possibly more - appear to have applied for marriage licenses since gay marriage was legalized in the city last March.

The total number of applications more than doubled since the first same-sex couples lined up to get their licenses, from about 3,100 in the previous year to 6,600 during the past 12 months, said Leah H. Gurowitz, spokeswoman for D.C. Superior Court, which issues the licenses.

Although the court does not differentiate between same-sex and heterosexual couples in its record-keeping, in previous years the number of applications varied by only 100 or less. So virtually all the increase is due to same-sex couples, Gurowitz said.

Not everyone who got a marriage license lived in the District. Many couples came from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and other states farther afield.

The court doesn't keep track of how many couples actually wed. The licenses have no expiration date, and the only requirement is that the marriage be performed within District boundaries.

Wednesday is the first anniversary of the city's first same-sex weddings.

Darlene Garner and Lorilyn "Candy" Holmes of Laurel wed that day at the headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbied for marriage equality. They also had a religious ceremony June 30 and plan to celebrate both dates as their anniversaries.

The women, who started their relationship 15 years ago, said the differences they perceive as a married couple have been subtle yet significant.

"The primary difference for me is how others see us," said Garner, 62. "Others now recognize and respect us as a couple that is completely and in every possible way committed to each other."

A repairman had just left their home in Laurel, and Garner said she told him that Holmes was her wife.

"Being able to use the term 'wife' was important," Garner said. "He didn't flinch. He just said 'okay.' People are flinching less these days, or at least they're not showing it."


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