Dozens of demonstrators seeking same sex marriage rights packed the square in front of the Arlington County Courthouse this morning, before marching into the District.
Members of the Campaign for Southern Equality work to bring attention to the desire for same sex couples to get married in Southern states. The group’s website states: “The actions on January 17 are intended to highlight the lives and stories of LGBT people from across the South; the powerful reality that in our nation’s capital LGBT people have the right to marry; and the injustice that legal marriages between same-sex couples are not recognized in the South.”
Participants gathered in the square to request marriage licenses from Paul Ferguson, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.
“I commend each of you that is coming forward today for your courage. I think you do realize that by law, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow me to issue those marriage licenses to you,” Ferguson said. “I hope that if laws do change in the future, that you will choose to return one day to Arlington County to receive a marriage license.”
More than a dozen couples stepped forward to request marriage licenses from Ferguson. In turn, each was rejected.
“Unfortunately, I am not able to grant that license by law,” Ferguson repeated to each couple.
Each of the couples acknowledged the rejection, some vowing to return for licenses should the laws change.
“You’re just doing your job. We’ve been together 25 years. It hurts to be rejected,” one tearful applicant said to Ferguson. “We know hearts and minds do change, and we hope Virginia will too.”
Following the request for licenses, the applicants and dozens of others in attendance marched to the Jefferson Memorial. There, the group honored a North Carolina same sex couple’s legal marriage under D.C. law.
“We understand the laws aren’t going to change tomorrow. But if you live in the South, this is the distance you must travel before you’re equal under the law,” said Campaign for Southern Equality Executive Director Jasmine Beach-Ferrara. “You must go all the way to Washington, D.C. to be treated equally under the law.”
Arlington County Police officers were in attendance to ensure everyone’s safety both at the demonstration and during the march from Arlington into the District. Police reported that no public roadways were obstructed, and that as of 12:30 p.m., the group had officially crossed into D.C. on the way to the Jefferson Memorial.
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