McMarriage: Institutionalized in 20 Minutes

Like the song says, it’s so easy to fall in love. It’s even easier to get married, if you’re heterosexual. Actually, I had no idea just how easy until I picked up a copy of the Washington City Paper this weekend. At a time when people from the president on down are ready to change the constitution to deny the hubby and I the chance to legally say "I do," I was intrigued by the very idea that heteros could be married on their lunch breaks and still get back to work on time. Apparently, you can be in,  out and married in 20 minutes.

The District of Columbia’s only official government wedding chapel is located in Room 4485 on the fourth floor of the H.Carl Moultrie Courthouse at 500 Indiana Ave. NW, D.C. Superior Court. To get there, after you’re screened by court security, you take three flights of escalators up, veer left at the Domestic Violence Center, make a sharp right at the sign for the Counsel for Child Abuse and Neglect, and then just follow the signs to the Marriage Bureau.

…One of several friendly clerks will guide you through the requisite paperwork and then point you to a door beneath an arched metal arbor covered with bright fake flowers. Inside the marriage-ceremony room, Fillmore Lucas Jr., deputy director of the family-court clerk’s office, is one of two officials who preside over weddings, joining husbands and wives on the half-hour most Mondays and Wednesdays.

…The ceremony itself lasts a little over a quarter of an hour, leaving fewer than 15 minutes for photos before the next couple arrives. Then it’s three escalators back down and into married life.

Wow. You could even leave your keys in your car, with the engine idling, and be married and back before it was stolen.

The article includes write-ups and photos of some newly-minted newlyweds, including a pair that seem to be from a church famous for its mass weddings. They all seem like nice enough couples, and I’m sure they all deserve every happiness.

However, as I read the article I was struck with surprise — and just a little bit of envy — at how easily straight people can legalize and legitimize their  relationships, and resolve complications like that of the couple who was married in Greece and came here to find that their marriage wasn’t immediately recognized in the states. No problem. A quick trip to the justice o’ the peace, a couple of "I do"s, and they went right on with their lives. For such a revered and fragile "institution," I’m amazed at how easy it is to get into, provided the couple has the accepted combination of genitalia/chromosomes. I wonder if they take it for granted.

Later this year, it’s likely that my family will take a trip to Canada, for a conference in Toronto. I’m lobbying to make us "legal in Canada" with a quick trip to the justice o’ the peace there. (I just have to look up the requirements for what’s involved.) If it takes 20 minutes or less up there, I think we’ll even be able to keep the kid occupied and entertained long enought to get it done. Besides, if we wait for it to be legal in the state, the kid will be out of college by the time we’re able to do it.

In the meantime, I’m thinking I’ll become virtually Canadian. If nothing else, I can pretend to be from a country that affords me equal citizenship.

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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5 Responses to McMarriage: Institutionalized in 20 Minutes

  1. Amocca says:

    20 minutes! wow! That’s kind of scare if you ask me! What happened to the sacntity of marriage?

    Anyways… you could also become virtually Danisjh 🙂 (although is a lot farther away 🙂 ) Here gay men and women have been legally able to marry since 1987 back then it was only a ceremony at city hall – but nowadays many priests perform church weddings for gays too….

    Good luck with the ‘I do’es’ if you go through with it…


  2. KipEsquire says:

    In New York State a couple must wait at least 24 hours after the marriage license is issued before they can be married. The goal is precisely to prevent “impulse marriages” such as these.

  3. Scott Wells says:

    Don’t get too excited: unless things have changed in the last few months there’s a seven day waiting period for marriage licences in DC, but otherwise this account is correct. Perhaps the couple in question was getting a call back.

    “Instant” licenses can be had in Virginia, but there are no civil celebrants in-house. You can get a list of within-the-block lawyers at Arlington County courthouse (across the Potomac River from Washington, for non-locals) who are qualified to solemnize wedding — so, about the same thing.

    Scott, your neighborhood gay licensed-to-marry-others-in-DC-and-Virginia-
    but-not-able-to-legally-marry-the-man-I-vowed-my-life-to clergyman.

  4. Terrance says:

    Well, so much for the air in that balloon. But I didn’t see that info in the article, so it left the impression that quickie marriages were a possibility.

  5. Mistinguette says:

    No need to emigrate to marry. In Masschusetts, any two adults unrelated by blood or marriage can be legally wed. There’s a three day waiting period, but no legal residency requirement (although the governor is using an old anti-miscegenation law to make it hard to find a clerk of courts who will let out-of-state couples register for a license).

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