If you happen to live on the north side of the Potomac River, we join you on this day in celebration of equality, justice and religious freedom. DC couples started lining up outside the courthouse at 6:00 a.m. to submit their applications for marriage licenses. Weddings for all couples can begin taking place on March 9. Here’s some helpful information for anybody planning to head down there. [Photo by Cathy Renna]
“We waited a long time for this. Our family will have the same rights and privileges as any other family,” one of those waiting in the cold rain told the DCist.
In light of Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler’s February 24 opinion that Maryland law can and should recognize valid same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, couples residing in Maryland can also expect to have their marriages honored by their home state.
Meanwhile on our side of the river, Virginia moves backwards, without even basic rights in the area of state employment. This is not because the people of Virginia are especially evil or mean-spirited; in fact, polling consistently shows that around 90% of Virginians think that state employees should have job protection on the basis of sexual orientation. This is a matter of basic fairness, and the problem actually seems to be an over-abundance of fair-mindedness among ordinary voters, although it may seem strange to put it that way. Recently, we have seen a large number of people insist that the recently adopted addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to Loudoun’s EEOS “wasn’t necessary” because “there are already nondiscrimination laws at the state level” – and then continue to insist that it must be so even when they are unable to produce evidence of such laws. In other words, they are unable to believe that such common sense law isn’t already part of the Virginia code. I choose to see this disbelief as a marker of decency, although of course the information deficit must be addressed.
I think it’s important to understand that what appears, especially in contrast to our neighboring jurisdictions, to be such a dismal setback is really just a temporary artifact of the recent election. Virginians didn’t vote to take rights away from their neighbors; the issue isn’t even on their radar. The individuals for whom punishing the GLBT community is such a burning issue amount to a tiny and deranged minority who just figured out that they can now win elections by NOT talking about it.
It’s unfortunate that regular people will have to pay the consequences of that choice, as Virginia becomes increasingly marginalized – however, equality remains inevitable. The stark contrast just created between the two sides of the river will only accelerate that process.