Tying the Knot in Maryland

Effective Jan. 1, same-sex couples can now wed in the Free State, though federal roadblocks remain

By John Riley
Published on January 3, 2013, 6:32am | Comments

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Welihindha said he can apply for one-year temporary work status as he seeks to practice in his field once his student visa expires. After such an extension, he might also apply for a work visa for an additional three-to-six years before having to return to Sri Lanka. Neither of those options is guaranteed, Welihindha added.

''It's not as concerning or pressing right now,'' he said. ''But as we get closer to that day, it's going to become more of an issue.''

The two are especially interested in the fate of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would allow people in same-sex relationships to sponsor their foreign-born partners who are seeking to immigrate to the United States. The act, which has been sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in various forms since the 106th Congress in 2000, has died in committee in every subsequent Congress. It has very little support from Republicans, and will likely not receive a vote as long as the GOP controls either chamber.

But despite lingering concerns and questions over federal recognition, many Maryland same-sex couples are eagerly running down the aisle. They're receiving plenty of support from their chief allies, particularly organized labor, which was a major part of the Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition that successfully lobbied for the passage of marriage equality at the legislative level and at the ballot box. One of the local union chapters of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union was planning to celebrate same-sex marriages at the Rockville Courthouse on Jan. 2, after Metro Weekly deadline. The union's president, Joe Hansen, has been a vocal supporter of LGBT rights and marriage equality.

According to lead organizer Jay Pascucci, a member of UFCW's strategic resources department, several members of the union are planning a ''show of support'' outside of the courthouse for several couples who are getting married Jan. 2, even though the union members don't personally know the spouses.

''We just felt we wanted to show them we support them,'' Pascucci said. ''I told the others to bring some poster board, and I'd supply the markers to make signs. We're going to be dressed in wedding wear. This support absolutely carries over to the rank-and-file members.''

But Pascucci has another reason to celebrate the passage of marriage equality: On Feb. 10, he and his partner of 15 years, David Robinson, will be married in Silver Spring.