World and Nation

Virginia issues licenses to same-sex couples

ARLINGTON, Va. — Virginia began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday, hours after the Supreme Court’s surprise decision letting such marriages stand in five states.

Same-sex couples and other gay marriage advocates gathered in front of the Arlington courthouse and in Richmond and declared themselves pleased and stunned.

“The excitement, I don’t think can be put into words,” Tony London of Norfolk, one of the plaintiffs in the Virginia case, said in a telephone news conference.

Officials in Utah, Wisconsin, Indiana and Oklahoma were also in the process of preparing same-sex marriage certificates after the decision.

In Salt Lake County, District Attorney Sim Gill advised the clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses immediately to same-sex couples.

“We are excited and pleased that we now have clarity from the courts and the fundamental rights of all Utahns are honored and protected,” Gill said in a statement.

Paul Ferguson, the court clerk in Arlington, Virginia, said that the forms had been changed from “Bride & Groom” to read “Spouse & Spouse.”

The application costs $30, he said. But because of the sudden decision, there was not an immediate crush of people waiting to marry.Not everyone was happy. William J. Howell, the Republican speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, said in a statement that he was disappointed by the court’s ruling. He criticized Mark Herring, the state’s Democratic attorney general, for refusing to defend the state’s ban on marriage, adopted in a constitutional amendment in 2006.

“I am a strong supporter of traditional marriage. There are many Virginians who agree with me and some who do not,” Howell said.

“Regardless of how one feels about marriage, we should all agree that Virginians deserve to have their voices heard and votes vigorously defended in court. That did not happen in this case.”

Herring waved aside the criticism during an impromptu news conference on the steps of the Arlington courthouse.

Flanked by gay members of the Arlington county board and the state legislature, Herring hailed the court’s ruling. In an interview after the news conference, Herring said Virginia had long been on what he considered to be the wrong side of history.

He cited the civil rights cases of Brown vs. Board of Education and the 1996 case that struck down the male-only admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute.

“I was determined to make sure that the injustices of Virginia’s position in those past cases were not repeated again,” Herring said.

Adam Ebbin, a Virginia state senator and the first openly gay member of the General Assembly, said he was excited about the ruling even though “everyone I know already got married somewhere else.”