D.C. Superior Court began accepting marriage license applications from same-sex couples Wednesday morning, a historic milestone for gay couples and activists that was made possible by the city's new gay marriage law.
About 45 couples were waiting in line when the court's marriage bureau opened its doors at 8:30 a.m. Employees allowed 10 couples to enter at a time, and had extra personnel on hand to accept the applications.
Processing the applications will take at least three business days, officials said, which means the earliest that any same-sex marriages will be performed is next Tuesday, March 9.
"I'm very excited. This is the love of my life," said Darlene Garner, 61, of her partner Candy Holmes, 53. The two women, who live in Laurel, were among the first in line to apply for a license. They met at the Metropolitan Community Church, a predominantly gay congregation where they are both ministers, and have been together for 14 years.
Court officials opened the building at 7, and handed out numbered tickets to the 11 or so couples who were already waiting in a chilly, light rain.
Many of the couples in line wore casual clothes and Human Rights Campaign buttons on their lapels.
Court officials are encouraging couples to complete the marriage license application before they arrive at the courthouse. They can download an application from the court's Web site. Applicants must also have the $35 application fee and $10 for the license (cash or money order).
The application fee is waived for couples who already are registered in the District as domestic partners. Those couples should bring their proof of registration and the $10 license fee.
Several of the couples who gathered early Wednesday said they were already registered as domestic partners. Michael Lavin, 55, and Joe Peters, 48, of Brookeville have been together for 17 years. The men said getting married was an "extra level of protection" for insurance and other policies to make sure each is covered.
Even before the courthouse doors opened, gay rights advocates hailed Wednesday as a victory for equal rights. The anticipated marriages of same-sex couples, said Mitch Wood, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, were "the fruit of decades of public advocacy and organizing by gay citizens and our numerous allies."
D.C. court officials were expecting demonstrators and protesters to flock to the courthouse Wednesday as well.
Late Tuesday, opponents of the D.C. law passed in December that legalized same-sex marriage tried to seek intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court. But the court declined to intervene.