College Park mayor and husband celebrate ‘momentous’ victory in marriage equality at the White House

President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law on the White House’s South Lawn on Tuesday, and among the many couples who gathered to witness and celebrate the signing was a couple from College Park, Maryland.

“It certainly is a momentous occasion,” said College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn, who attended the event with his husband, Dave Kolesar.

“I think there’s a little bit of a ‘pinch me, I’m dreaming’ aspect to it,” Kolesar, who is WTOP’s senior broadcast engineer, said about being present to see history being made.

The couple has been a part of the fight for marriage equality in Maryland since 2004 when they were named plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to overturn a ban on gay marriage in the state. A judge originally ruled in their favor, before an appeals court overturned the ruling.

Dave Kolesar and husband Patrick Wojahn attend signing of Respect for Marriage Act at White House
Dave Kolesar and husband Patrick Wojahn of College Park, Md. attend signing of Respect for Marriage Act on the South Lawn of the White House on Dec. 13, 2022. (Courtesy Dave Kolesar)

Kolesar said when they initially joined the lawsuit they were greeted by skepticism from family, friends, acquaintances and even members of the gay rights movement who questioned if it was too soon to fight for marriage quality.

“Part of the task that we saw when we first joined the lawsuit was to frame the debate, because I guess you could say the Overton window was in a totally different place than where it is now,” Kolesar said.

The two later wed in 2011 in D.C., when Maryland said out-of-state marriages would be recognized. Months later, same-sex marriage was made legal in the state.

Both were excited to see a law which protects both same-sex and interracial marriages signed, though Wojahn said seeing this outcome after years of fighting seemed far from certain.

“There were many times when this outcome was in doubt, and we weren’t sure which way things were going to go,” Wojahn said.

Now after 18 years of fighting for this, they said attending the signing was gratifying.

“It feels like it’s a sort of a turning point and a crossroads, a moment where we’re really gonna look back in 20 years and remember this day, as a date that really signified something important in our history and the history of our country,” Wojahn said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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