By Matt Hansen, Tribune Washington Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. — Addressing a small but vocal crowd of supporters in front of the Arlington County courthouse, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring praised the Supreme Court’s move Monday to clear the way for same-sex marriage for the first time in a Southern state.
“This is the outcome we have hoped for, the outcome we have fought for, and the outcome the Constitution requires,” Herring said.
Married same-sex couples in the state can now adopt children and take advantage of employer and tax benefits, he said. His office was working with the state to allow same-sex spouses of state workers to enroll in shared health plans.
“This ruling allows all Virginians to be full members of our society,” Herring added.
Even though the high court’s action Monday was not a constitutional ruling, Herring predicted the Supreme Court would eventually support nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage given Monday’s ruling.
“Letting these rulings stand should be a strong message of the court’s leanings,” he said.
As the state prepared to issue marriage licenses later Monday afternoon, activists and residents gathered outside the Arlington circuit court.
“This is something we never thought we would see,” said Elizabeth Wildhack, who married her partner, Susie Doyle, in February only miles away in Washington, D.C. “We can stand in front of the Arlington County courthouse and be legally recognized. It’s extraordinary.”
Doyle said she was hopeful that younger generations would see same-sex marriage as unremarkable.
“We have eight nieces and nephews,” she said. “That’s the generation we’re changing.”
“We don’t need everybody to agree with us, but we do need everybody to respect us,” Wildhack added.
Others were grateful that their state was no longer a holdout in allowing marriages.
“I don’t have to be embarrassed for Virginia anymore,” said beaming area resident Gerda Keiswetter.
For religious leaders who supported the decision, the ruling would allow them to do one thing they could never do in the past: sign an official state marriage license for same-sex couples.
“I hope to perform marriages and sign the licenses, something I haven’t been able to do for two decades,” said the Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles, who ministers to a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Arlington.
AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm