DC: Hundreds of Couples Seek Gay Marriage

Sinjoyla Townsend, left, and Angelisa Young walk through cheers and down the aisle as a married couple on Tuesday, March 9, 2010, the first day that gay marriage is legal in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
Hundreds of couples applied for marriage licenses in Washington during the first week they were available to same-sex couples.

Courthouse spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz says the 466 applications received from both gay and straight couples is much higher than the 50 or so applications normally received in a week.

Couples waited in line for hours beginning March 3, the first day same-sex unions became legal in the nation's capital.

Cheering erupted from the crowd when the first couple signed in at the city's marriage bureau inside the Moultrie courthouse, just blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

Because of a mandatory waiting period of three business days, couples weren't able to actually marry in the District of Columbia until Tuesday. But the mood was celebratory even as couples went to apply for the licenses last week. Couples got cupcakes from a city councilman who sponsored the gay marriage law, and throughout the morning, people applauded as they exited the marriage bureau with their applications complete.

Sinjoyla Townsend, 41, and her partner of 12 years, Angelisa Young, 47, claimed the first spot in line just after 6 a.m. They are already domestic partners in the city but wanted to become legally married.

"It's like waking up Christmas morning," said Young, who teared up when she sat down to process their paperwork. "It's really like a dream come true."

Most couples applying for licenses were from the district and nearby Maryland and Virginia, but one couple had gotten on the road at 4 a.m. to drive from West Virginia. Many said they had already had marriage ceremonies - some years ago - but wanted marriage certificates. And they said they attached special importance to being at the courthouse on the first day.

"This shows that there's a buildup, waiting for this to happen," said Christopher Grieder, 46, of Herndon, Va., who has been with Stuart Kopperman, 53, for 14 years and is planning an April 3 wedding.

Others said they felt an urgency to get married while they can. Eva Townsend and Shana McDavis-Conway had a wedding in St. Croix in 2008 and are registered domestic partners.

But McDavis-Conway is from California, where same-sex marriages were legal for a time before voters decided to ban them. She said she wanted to get married now in Washington in case something similar happens there.

Washington is the sixth place in the nation where gay marriages can take place. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont also issue licenses to same-sex couples.

The U.S. Supreme Court was petitioned to block the law and allow residents to vote on the matter. Late Tuesday afternoon, the Court refused to block the law from taking effect, reports CBS station WUSA in Washington.

The gay marriage law was introduced in the 13-member D.C. Council in October and had near-unanimous support from the beginning. 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 March 2.

Opponents, however, are still attempting to overturn the bill in court. That worries Eric North and Tom French, both 45, who were waiting in line Wednesday at the courthouse.

"We want to get in when we can," French said.

"I want to be able to say I'm married," North added.