By Erich Wagner (Courtesy photo)
Dawn Turton was having a quiet Monday morning. She had the day off, and happened to check Twitter as the news percolated: the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear several cases seeking to uphold gay marriage bans, including Virginia’s.
“I saw a couple things come across the screen, so I rode my motorcycle over to see Beth [Trent],” Turton said. “She works up at the church we go to.”
Turton and Trent held a commitment ceremony in 2011, but were waiting for Virginia to adopt same-sex marriage to “make it legal,” as Turton put it. On Monday afternoon, they became the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Alexandria Circuit Court. With Commonwealth Baptist Church pastor Marty Anderson in tow, the couple made their vows just outside the city courthouse.
“I hope this doesn’t sound cheesy, but I love my state,” Turton said. “I was going to wait until Virginia was ready. That was important to me, to be married in the state where I was born in, where I live in and where I love to live.”
For a few current and former city leaders, Monday’s decision — or lack thereof — was a long time coming. Former City Councilor Lonnie Rich ﬁrst pushed for marriage equality in 1996, and has expressed amazement at how quickly public opinion shifted on the issue since the commonwealth banned same-sex marriage in 2006 by referendum.
“I grew up in the 1960s, so I’ve seen that moral arc bend toward justice in any number of ways, from racial issues, to sex issues and now the LGBT issues,” Rich said. “What’s interesting is this will be such a nonstory two or three years from now… In a very short period of time it’ll be such a non-issue even with most conservatives.
“It’s an issue for older people. Most conservative people under 40 just don’t care, and they’re more libertarian anyway.”
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) and Delegate Mark Sickles (D-43), the ﬁrst two openly gay members of the Virginia General Assembly, hailed the ruling in a joint statement.
“We will still continue working to clean up outdated language in the Code of Virginia so we can formally repeal the unconstitutional and discriminatory provisions, but this is a huge victory for marriage equality supporters and a time for celebration,” they said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D8) echoed his colleagues’ praise for the ruling, but said the Supreme Court should have gone further in their ruling.
“This decision afﬁrms the right of all people to pursue happiness, the most basic example of which is the ability to marry and share your life with the person you love,” he said. “Still, it is disappointing that the [Supreme] Court has delayed a ﬁnal decision on a federal right to marriage equality. Legalized discrimination anywhere is wrong … and now it is time to end the uncertainty so many couples are forced to live with and guarantee marriage equality throughout the country.”
For Turton, although her commitment ceremony was wonderful and fulﬁlling, Monday’s ceremony was just as validating.
“The commitment ceremony was afﬁrming in a different way,” she said. “We got married with our friends and family in front of God at the church and it was very personal.
“When you get married legally, it feels afﬁrming in a different sense. From a legal perspective, someone else, who has nothing to do with you, is recognizing your love.”