Gay Marriage in D.C.: One Officiant, Three Months, 44 Same-Sex Weddings
When same-sex marriage was legalized in D.C. this March, Mike Newman offered himself up to officiate local gay marriages free-of-charge. Since them, Newman has wedded 44 of the District's same-sex couples—and one opposite-sex pair. Here's a taste of the ceremonies he's seen:
* "Most of them I’d describe as sort of guerrilla-style," Newman says of the typical same-sex wedding he's been called to officiate. "We'll find a public space and do a ceremony that lasts only a minute or two . . . most of the the time it's just the couple says," he says. Newman, 43, says his officiant style is likely to attract more casual couples: "I'm obviously not a wedding professional, and I made it known I'm up for doing this wherever, whenever," he says.
* Also turning to Newman: Couples who don't want to get hassled by mainstream officiants of unknown tolerance level. "A lot of people I’ve spoken to are used to seeing a lot of discrimination. If they just make a blind phone call to an officiant and it comes out that it's a gay wedding, it can turn out to be a big deal," says Newman. "I'm vocal about wanting to perform these weddings, so they know right away it's not a problem."
* Since March, Newman has performed same-sex weddings in front of the Capitol, outside the U.S. Botanic Garden, in various local restaurants, on the roof of the Newseum, and in his own Capitol Hill living room. "A lot of people just drop by my house," says Newman."We've done half-a-dozen or so in my home, either in the living room or in the backyard," he says.
* Since March, Newman has also lent his services to a couple of heterosexuals. "I’ve performed one opposite-sex marriage in the past few months," says Newman. "It was a couple who said they were waiting to get married until their friends could get married, so it was a part of the same trend."
* On the first day same-sex marriage was legal in D.C., Newman performed eight weddings. Now the demand has tricked down to about one wedding a week. As demand has gone down, Newman's rate has increased. "I have recently started charging for the weddings," says Newman. As of a few weeks ago, the current going rate for his services is about $50 a pop. He's also recently taken on an apprentice—Newman recently endorsed his wife to become an officiant, as well.
Photo via Mike Newman