Making It Legal

I suppose it’s no secret anymore. We went down to the courthouse this morning, and got a place in line.

At least 16 couples were waiting at 7:15 a.m. inside the city’s Moultrie courthouse, which houses the marriage bureau and is just blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

Sinjoyla Townsend, 41, and her partner of 12 years, Angelisa Young, 47, claimed the first spot in line just after 6 a.m.

“It’s like waking up Christmas morning,” Young said.

Washington will be the sixth place in the nation where gay marriages can take place. Because of a mandatory waiting period, however, couples won’t actually be able to marry in the District of Columbia until March 9. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont currently issue licenses to same-sex couples.

…Terrance Heath, 41, planned to be at the courthouse with his partner, Rick Imirowicz, 43. The two have been together for 10 years and have a 7-year-old and a 2-year-old, but Heath said Wednesday feels like “a step forward.”

“My husband has always been my husband to me, but having that legal recognition, that legal protection, makes it easier to deal with any number of situations,” said Heath, a writer and blogger. “If you tell people you’re married, you don’t really have to explain much beyond that.”

The two, who live in Maryland, plan to marry on March 9, the first day possible.

The gay marriage law was introduced in the 13-member D.C. Council in October and had near-unanimous support from the beginning. The bill passed and D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty signed it in December, but because Washington is a federal district, the law had to undergo a congressional review period that expired Tuesday.

We were number 12 in line.

We’d always said that we’d do it, if we knew it would be recognized in Maryland. That alone would make it worth the trip to Massachusetts or another state. But then on the eve of the D.C. marriage law taking effect, we got a wedding present from our state attorney general.

Last Wednesday, Maryland’s attorney general, Douglas F. Gansler, issued a legal opinion concluding that his state should immediately begin recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Mr. Gansler’s move is expected to draw legal and legislative challenges, but for Terrance Heath it was the turning point that convinced him it was time to get married.

“We realized that we can finally get many of the benefits and protections that other couples take for granted,” said Mr. Heath, a 41-year-old blogger who lives with his partner, Rick Imirowicz, 43, and their two adopted sons in Montgomery County, Md.

“Before that attorney general decision we could have the legal documents, like wills and medical power of attorney,” Mr. Heath said. “But there was no guarantee that those documents would be recognized.”

He said that he and his partner had worried about what might happen to any inheritance meant for their adopted sons, Parker, 7, and Dylan, 2.

“Marriage gives us peace of mind,” Mr. Heath said. “It gives my family security that we deserve.”

Of course, no one knows what the future holds when it comes to anything. But that didn’t stop us from living our lives and starting our family. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but given an opportunity to better protect and provide more security for my family I’m going to take it.

I managed not to cry until we were outside the courthouse, having turned in our application, paid our fee, and gotten a receipt to come back and pick up our marriage license. Then a reporter asked me what made this such an important day for us. I started to answer, but couldn’t finish. So the hubby finished for me, since he knew what was on my heart anyway.

One question we were asked was whether we thought this day would come. We knew it would come, but ten years ago we didn’t think it would be this soon. Maybe by the time we were grandparents, but we didn’t imagine it the day would arrive so soon. We’re grateful it did, and we hope it’s not long before other families like ours across the country can do what we’ve begun today. We’ve waited ten years for this opportunity, plus an hour or so in waiting in line and in the marriage license office.

It was worth the wait.

All hurdles aside, the days and weeks to come will be a spectacle to behold. Same-sex marriage rights are a long time coming in this city, and supporters have certainly weathered the storm. Couples who’ve been hoping for years to make their partnerships legal will finally be able to enjoy the fruits, and basic rights, of their labors — couples like Reggie Stanley and Rocky Galloway. Both 50-years-old, Reggie and Rocky have two small children who will one day come to understand what the struggle meant for their parents, and for their own welfare. Sinjolya Townsend, 41, and Angelisa Young, 47, are also scheduled to be married this coming Monday. They’ve been together for 13 years. Rick Imirowicz and Terrance Heath, both long-time DC residents, have been together for 10 years and have two children. Imirowicz is a Catholic. Heath practices Buddhism. Like countless other parents, they’re responsible, loving and open-minded. What some groups continue to fail to realize is that this whole issue, when it comes down to it, is about the simple pursuit of happiness by responsible, loving couples and parents. Why anyone would want to restrict their happiness is beyond me.

It’s beyond me, too. In fact, it brought to mind a line from an old Duke Ellington Lyric: “Why people tear the seams of anyone’s dreams is over my head.”

But when we stepped out of the courthouse this morning, to be greeted by reporters and supporters (and only one protester that I could see), I felt warm, despite the cold wind and the spattering rain, with my husband by my side plus something we didn’t have before. Part of another lyric came to mind.

The weather is frightening
The thunder and lighting
Seem to having their way
But as far as I’m concerned it’s a lovely day

…I can see the sun up high though we’re caught in a storm
I can see where you and I could be cozy and warm
Let the rain pitter-patter
Cause it really doesn’t matter
If skies are gray
Long as I can be with you it’s a lovely day

And it is. It’s a lovely day.

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