Gay Couples Rush to Get D.C. Marriage Licenses

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D.C. SUPERIOR COURT -- Gay couples in Washington, D.C. started applying for marriage licenses on Wednesday.

Despite last-minute appeals from traditional marriage supporters, the Supreme Court did not stop the recently signed law from going into effect. Still, the fight is not over yet.

Rushing Down the Aisle

Dozens of homosexual couples showed up at the D.C. Superior Court for the first day they could legally fill out marriage applications to wed each other.

"It's a historic day for civil rights," said Allen Pittinger, who was applying to marry his partner Philip Dunham. "And it's also an historic day for us as a couple."

Reggie Stanley and Rocky Galloway also joined the throng of gay couples seeking to take advantage of D.C.'s new marriage law.

"Today it just means another step toward equality and justice for our city and for recognition of our relationship," Stanley said.

A few protestors showed up. Some loudly expressed their displeasure with the new law, while others were much more subdued, but still passionate.

Rev. Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council was one of the more quiet protestors.

"Marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman, and the issuance of certificates and papers here at the courthouse does not change that reality," he said.

But the protestors had little impact on gay couples who'll be the first to legally marry in the nation's capitol.

Already, same-sex marriage is causing some changes in D.C. For instance, on the marriage license application they've dropped 'bride' and 'groom' and it now says 'spouse' and 'spouse.' And instructions for the civil marriage ceremony now read 'I now pronounce you legally married' instead of 'I now pronounce you man and wife.'"

Gay Marriage New Law of the Land?

However, forces opposing gay marriage in D.C. are still fighting in court to allow the people to vote on the issue.

That's one reason Bishop Harry Jackson of Stand4Marriage DC is distressed homosexuals are being allowed to apply for marriage licenses.

"If people get married now, then you're going to have the same mess that they had in California where thousands of people in California were married and then when it got on the ballot, they repealed everything," Jackson said. "It was really not the best."

Jackson said Congress could have blocked gay marriage in D.C., but chose not to get involved.

That may lead gays to argue in courts that the national legislature has now passively approved same-sex marriage, and that should over-ride the will of states that have rejected it.

"I believe this is a beginning of a national offensive to make gay marriage the law of the land," Jackson said.

History professor Nancy F. Cott, who has researched legal institutions and marriage in the U.S., was also leery of the new law, The Harvard Crimson reported.

"What is curious about [the ruling] is that this has been done under a Congress still in support of the Defense of Marriage Act," Cott told the Crimson. "D.C. is not a state, it is a federal territory, which means there is a direct conflict between what the D.C. standard is and what federal law is."

Lawmakers or judges in five states and D.C. have now approved homosexual marriage. But in the 31 states where it's been put to a vote of the people, it's been rejected every time.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.