Republican Craig Max has dreamed for years of having the ultimate D.C. wedding — a National Cathedral ceremony, followed by a rooftop reception for 200 overlooking the National Mall at the Kennedy Center.
But the Log Cabin Republicans boardmember didn’t expect he’d ever be able to marry his partner, former Supreme Court librarian Michael Zurat, until today.
The couple is one of many same-sex Washington couples who are expected to line up outside the District Superior Courthouse today, the first day that same-sex couples can apply for a marriage license under the District’s new gay marriage law.
The law has many grappling with new, uncharted territory — in both their love lives and work lives.
“Right now we’re in a gray zone between being engaged and fully married and having that commitment,” said Max, who recently gave Zurat an engagement ring. “Now we will actually reach our goal of having a formal and recognized within the traditional definition that we view our relationship.”
It will also give them definition to a four-year relationship, allow them to further solidify estate planning and guarantee them hospital visitation rights that are currently only secured under the District’s domestic partnership rights.
But for some, the question is about professional relationships: how will it be to work alongside lawmakers, and in some instances within a political party, who fought to see the law revoked?
Numerous lawmakers are opposed to same-sex marriage, but two went as far as to file legislation that would require District residents to vote on the issue before it went into effect. Among them Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah). Bennett’s bill has attracted a group of cosponsors including Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).
“I think people are frightened of having a vote because they think traditional marriage will win,” said Chaffetz, who is the ranking member on the House subcommittee overseeing District affairs. “I think people who understand the constitution understand why this particular issue should be voted on.”
National Health Council lobbyist Kevin Cain, a Republican, often works alongside Republican members who oppose gay marriage.
He has spent more than a decade in Washington, working his way through the congressional offices of now-Sen. Johnny Isakson and former Rep. Max Burns before moving to K Street, becoming one of the driving forces behind Capitol Hill’s healthcare reform debate.
“I’ve worked for a couple of members on the Hill who are pretty conservative and I have friends who work for conservative members,” said Cain, who served as a delegate to the Republican convention. His partner Chris Moore is a Democrat and public policy advisor for a United Nations agency.
“You can have that conversation with a member, but ultimately, we feel very strongly that accepting who you are shouldn’t mean you have to accept less.”
For many politicos, a District ceremony will also untangle a web of commitment ceremonies and out-of-state unions that either have no legal standing or in other cases, could be overturned by the state they were performed in.
Ryan Tisch, an antitrust lawyer who often advocates in front of policymakers, will be at the courthouse to prevent losing his marriage.
After a non-legally binding ceremony in Baltimore in 2006, last summer Tisch and his partner were quickly legally married in an Iowa church after the state Supreme Court overturned the gay marriage ban.
“They were having homeless taco night in the basement during our ceremony,” said Tisch. “It wasn’t anything fancy.”
But now Iowa lawmakers are looking to reinstate the state’s ban.
“It’s important to me that I have hospital visitation, survivorship, wills, life insurance, just normal rights without any interruptions,” Tisch said. “I guess the only problem is now we will have three anniversaries.”
Another political couple — Danielle Moodie, senior legislative representative for the City of New York Office of Federal Affairs, and her fiancée, Aisha Mills, a former fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC — hope the right points are clearly communicated.
Says Mills: It’s not about being first in line at the courthouse to make a statement. It’s very much about being equal to all of our peers. It’s about safeguarding our family.