WASHINGTON — One bride wore a black suit, the other had on a white one with rhinestones. They walked down the aisle to Billy Joel's “Just the Way You Are” and kissed after the pastor pronounced them “legally married.”
The Rev. Darlene Garner, 61, and the Rev. Candy Holmes, 53, were among the first same-sex couples to marry in Washington on Tuesday, when the district became the sixth place in the country to conduct the unions.
“You have been in love, and you have recognized it all along. But today, the love that you have recognized in your heart is recognized by the District of Columbia,” the Rev. Dwayne Johnson told the couple.
“Equality and justice for all now includes us,” Garner said after the ceremony.
Both she and Holmes are leaders in the Metropolitan Community Churches, a group of Christian churches that primarily serve the gay and lesbian community.
The district joins Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont as places that issue same-sex couples marriage licenses.
Garner and Holmes were one of three couples married at the office of the Human Rights Campaign, which does advocacy work on gay, lesbian and transgender issues. In the other ceremonies, Reggie Stanley and Rocky Galloway married and then carried their 16-month-old twin daughters down the aisle, and Angelisa Young and Sinjoyla Townsend hugged and smiled after being declared “partners in life this day and for always.”
“All of us have responsibilities to ensure the success of this joint endeavor,” said the Rev. David North, who married Townsend and Young. He asked guests to “respect the life path that they choose together” and “commit to loving them.”
“I accept this charge,” the guests responded.
About 100 guests stayed for the three ceremonies. A cellist played, arrangements of yellow chrysanthemums, roses and carnations flanked the stage, and cream and gray programs announced the couples' names along with: “Congratulations to the couples on this historic day.”
About 150 couples were eligible to pick up marriage licenses after applying last week. Many of them stood in line March 3 at the marriage bureau of the district's Moultrie Courthouse for four or more hours. Like all couples, they had to wait three business days for their licenses to be processed.
Fifteen licenses were picked up Tuesday in the first hour the marriage bureau was open. Two couples quickly got hitched and returned to pick up marriage certificates and more couples came in to apply.
Some couples, like district residents Eva Townsend and Shana McDavis-Conway, planned to marry immediately. They planned a ceremony by their plot in a community garden, where they've grown carrots and potatoes. Others said they would be joined over the next several weeks and months. A large number — many of whom had held previous ceremonies — planned to marry at the city's courthouse. Normally, the courthouse hosts four to six weddings a day, but over the next several weeks, officials are expecting 10 to 12 per day because of the demand for same-sex ceremonies.
Rebecca and Delia Taylor picked up their license Tuesday morning and a minister friend immediately married them outside the courthouse. The couple said they long ago exchanged rings and considered themselves married. Still, they were grinning after picking up their certificate inside the courthouse.
“We've referred to each other as wives,” Rebecca Taylor said. “It's just a legal document, so if anything happens to one of us, we have rights.”