Let the wedding bells ring again in the District.
The D.C. Council on Tuesday unanimously approved emergency legislation allowing the city to grant marriage licenses during a federal government shutdown, reversing fortunes for couples for whom the shutdown meant big headaches on their big day.
The Marriage Bureau at the federally funded D.C. Superior Court was among the “nonessential” services halted since the shutdown began Dec. 22.
That left couples scrambling to come up with backup plans for making their marriages official in the eyes of the government, such as holding a second wedding in Maryland or Virginia. The Marriage Bureau registers officiants and issues marriage licenses, which the officiants are supposed to sign and return to the court after the nuptials.
But the Let Our Vows Endure Act — or LOVE Act — introduced by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) allows her to issue marriage licenses while the courthouse is partially closed. D.C. government agencies falling under the executive branch are not affected by the shutdown.
“They can shut down the United States government, but they cannot shut down love in the District of Columbia,” Council member Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4) said before the vote.
The mayor plans to sign the bill Thursday when she returns from the CES electronics show in Las Vegas, where she is to participate on a panel about innovation in cities.
The law would take effect immediately for 90 days, bypassing the typical congressional review period.
Lawmakers are also considering passing a permanent version of the bill.
Aides to Bowser say the secretary of the District of Columbia would handle marriage license applications, but city officials are still figuring out the process and how applicants will obtain licenses.
The District government also has been picking up trash from the Mall and ramping up staffing at the Department of Employment Services to process unemployment claims as a result of the shutdown.
Other court functions suspended during the federal government’s partial shutdown include bar admissions, the law library, the day care at D.C. Superior Court and expungement services.
If the shutdown continues, local government functions that rely on federal funding may be affected, including food stamps and public housing.