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‘Virginia is For All Lovers’ Becomes New Mantra as Same-Sex Ties Begin

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (center) and Arlington County officials, including Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson and others, gathered at the Arlington County Courthouse Monday, where Herring announced that same-sex marriage was now legal in the Commonwealth. (Photo: Mary Curtius)
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (center) and Arlington County officials, including Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson and others, gathered at the Arlington County Courthouse Monday, where Herring announced that same-sex marriage was now legal in the Commonwealth. (Photo: Mary Curtius)

In recent years, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Democrats of Virginia, an official caucus of the state party, has unofficially adopted the slogan altering the famous “Virginia is for Lovers” with the modification, “Virginia is for ALL Lovers.”

It’s the kind of slogan that, if it were on a bumper sticker, could single out for haters one’s car as a target for vandalism. But that, and many other forms of repression, will be harder now, because the slogan is now true!

Monday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to contest a wave of lower court rulings overturning anti-gay marriage laws, including in Virginia, has suddenly confronted the state with the necessity of officially sanctioning and performing same-sex weddings throughout the state.

In fact, the policy went into effect at 1 p.m. Monday, and no one, least of which was the Arlington Circuit Court clerk Paul Ferguson, was quite ready. By 10:30 a.m., Ferguson reported to the News-Press, his office got an unexpected call from state Attorney General Mark Herring’s office in Richmond saying Herring would be at Ferguson’s office at 1 p.m. sharp to begin trying knots.

Herring was eager to celebrate especially considering the seminal, courageous role he played last February when he broke from protocol to side with the plaintiffs suing the state to overturn its anti-gay marriage laws.

A huge scramble ensued Monday morning, including lighting up a group list of media contacts from Richmond data files, and by noon, TV cameras, reporters and equipment were clamoring for space in the Arlington Courthouse clerk’s office.

In the relentless chaos that ensued – Ferguson told the News-Press it was the biggest media circus he’d ever seen, including counting the years he was a member of the county board of supervisors – events were delayed well beyond the 1 p.m. starting bell, and by 2 p.m. the first of three weddings were performed by Herring and Ferguson on the spot.

There were another 10 weddings performed at the office on Tuesday. The biggest turnout, Ferguson said, was in Charlottesville, where over 100 ceremonies were performed.
The long wait for many LGBT couples was finally over, especially for those who wanted to wait to have their ties sanctioned legally in their home state.

Now, the marriages are expected to become routine, as they have in other states where the policy has been in place for a few years. In Arlington, whose court covers the City of Falls Church, two ministers have provided their names to the clerk as ready and willing to perform the ceremonies to those who come in. One is the pastor of the Arlington Unitarian Universalist church, and the other the pastor of the Rock Springs Congregational United Church of Christ in north Arlington. (The United Church of Christ, as a denomination, became the first to embrace same-sex marriage through a resolution passed at its national synod in 2005).

There are also volunteers trained and certified to perform civil ceremonies on the spot, Ferguson said.

“This is wonderful. This is really something!,” beamed Lilli Vincenz when reached by phone by the News-Press Tuesday.

Vincenz and her long-time partner Nancy Davis, long-time residents of the Westover section of North Arlington and friends of the News-Press, are perhaps the most famous LGBT couple in the region.

Vincenz is well noted as an early gay pioneer, participating with the likes of the late Frank Kameny in picket lines in front of the White House in 1965. She’s been featured in a film documentary, “Gay Pioneers,” and her early gay rights papers were recently officially received into the archives of the Smithsonian Institution.

Getting married, technically, at this point for Vincenz and Davis doesn’t matter so much to them, however. They’ve been married dozens of times, celebrating their relationship by jumping at every opportunity for a same-sex commitment ceremony in many times and places around the globe since they first tied the knot in 1986, almost 28 years ago.
Davis provided an engraved spoon from December 27, 1986 as proof. “It’s the first of many times we got married,” she said, “Usually while on holiday on cruise ships in many parts of the world.”

What’s been the key to the success of their marriage over so many years? “We love each other,” Davis beamed. “It’s no secret.”

She said whenever there have been disagreements, “We stand back and talk it over.” It “hasn’t always been easy, but it’s never been difficult to the point of leaving,” she said.
As for their advice to younger LGBT couples thinking of marriage now, Davis said, “My advice is to do it!”

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. Now we have the respect of our local government to back us up.”