When Mark Reed and Dante Walkup celebrated their wedding in an e-marriage ceremony on October 10, 2010, they thought they had uncovered a loophole in the laws that prohibit gay marriage. The ceremony, officiated by Washington, D.C. Reverend Sheila Alexander-Reid over Skype, took place in Texas and included over 80 guests.
Reed and Walkup had spent months researching the legality of an online marriage. Last year, they discovered a D.C. law dictating that only the officiant—and not the wedding party—is required to be present in D.C. during the solemnization of the ceremony. According to Reed, he and his partner filed for marriage and planned their wedding after they had verified this stipulation with D.C. court authorities.
The couple was shocked when they received a letter from a D.C. court last week informing them that while gay marriage is legal in D.C., their marriage was not because they had not been physically present in D.C. during the wedding. “We were stunned because the court had annulled our marriage without contacting us or our officiant,” Reed says. “There was a total lack of due process of law.”
Issues of legality surfaced immediately after their wedding prior to the annulment. “The Texas Division of Motor Vehicles refused to change the name on my driver’s license to my married name,” Reed tells dot429. “I had to go to court and spend $350 to get it changed. In the process, I was finger-printed so I could prove to [the Austin court] that I was not a criminal.” Reed states that if he had been married to a woman, the Texas DMV would not have sent him to the county court to change his name, saving him the legal fee.‚Ä®
Outside the courtroom, the couple was subject to a variety of anti-gay responses ranging from homophobic comments on their blog and video postings (mostly by “people who back up their comments with religion,” according to Reed) to unsolicited emails from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) encouraging ex-gay therapy. The animosity of many of the anti-gay comments in the media made the couple uneasy about their safety. “It’s gotten to the point where I fear that with our home address published, somebody might try and harm us,” Reed says.
Regarding the letter, the couple feels an over-riding sense of injustice and suspect that the challenges to the legality of their marriage were homophobia-driven. “There are examples of heterosexual publicized Skype weddings that were allowed to be legal,” Reed points out. He and his partner are exploring the options for fighting the annulment. “Traveling to D.C. will be time-consuming and expensive, but we have to take a stand in our fight for equality.”