13 couples celebrating the 3rd anniversary of the freedom to marry in Washington, DC

This week marks the third anniversary of the freedom to marry taking effect in Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the marriage bill into law on December 15, 2009, and it took effect three months later, on March 9, 2010. In that time, thousands of same-sex couples in DC have married, with many making pilgrimages from across the country to legally express their love and commitment to each other.

The District of Columbia became the sixth jurisdiction in the United States to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, and since then, four states have joined the Right Side of History. Freedom to Marry applauds these states, congratulates couples who have joined together in marriage, and will continue working toward the day when same-sex couples nationwide can share in the freedom to marry.

To celebrate the third anniversary of the freedom to marry in Washington, D.C., we spoke with 13 same-sex couples who have married in the past three years in our nation's capital:  

Revs. Darlene Garner and Candy Holmes

Married March 9, 2010

Darlene and Candy, now together for nearly 16 years, were one of the first same-sex couples to marry in the District of Columbia when the freedom to marry took effect there, Candy's hometown. "It's been three years since our wedding day, but we remember it like yesterday," Darlene and Candy explained, adding that it felt particularly significant to proudly stand against the false stereotype that African-American people do not support marriage for same-sex couples.  They added, "The joy of that day is etched in our hearts. Time stood still and our hearts were overcome with joy as we heard our pastor pronounce us legally married. That rapturous moment of 'I do' - sealed with a smile and a kiss - our dream fulfilled." Watch video of their wedding HERE

Dewayne Davis & Kareem Murphy

Married August 13, 2011

After over 22 years together, Kareem and Dewayne, who started dating in 1991 while studying at Howard University, have now officially been in a committed relationship with each other for longer than they have not been together. They celebrated their 20th anniversary together in 2011 with their amazing wedding ceremony in their home church - Metropolitan Community Church of Washington - with all of their friends and family members. Being able to marry in DC was very important for them - "part of  a lifelong dream," they explained. "DC is our home. It's where we met, and it's where we have lived together for over 20 years. A wedding any place else wasn't possible." 

Ruben Gonzales and Joaquín Tamayo

Married November 5, 2011

Ruben and Joaquín met in Los Angeles while Ruben was working as a field organizer for the campaign to defeat an anti-gay marriage amendment in California. They dated on the West Coast for two years, moved to the East Coast in 2002 so Joaquín could attend graduate school at Princeton University, and since 2009, they've lived in the nation's capital, where they began planning their wedding after the freedom to marry took effect in 2010. "DC quickly became home for us, and we were thrilled to be married here," Ruben explained. Their wedding had tons of special, personal touches - it was themed with Día de los Muertos decorations, featured music from the George Washington University a cappella group, and included the men sharing their first dance as a married couple to a hip-hop song. See more photos from their Día de los Muertos-themed wedding HERE

Mark Maxwell and Timothy Young

Married January 17, 2013

For most couples, wedding days are fast-paced, busy, and full of things to do. For Mark and Tim, who married after 22 years together earlier this year, it was even busier: In the morning, as part of their work with the Campaign for Southern Equality, they marched from Arlington, VA to the District of Columbia and exchanged vows in a public, legal ceremony in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Their ceremony was the finale to Stage 4 of the "We Do" campaign, where committed same-sex couples across the South apply for marriage licenses in their home communities and provoke denails, demonstrating what gay laws look like when they are enforced. Later that afternoon, after demonstrating what it looks and feels like when same-sex couples do have the freedom to marry, Mark and Tim, who traveled from their home in Winston-Salem, NC with their four adopted children, had a private ceremony with family and friends in Alexandria, VA. As a married couple, they're now continuing to speak out about how DOMA hurts their family and families like theirs. Read more of their story and check out 17 photos from their relationship HERE

Jamelle and Karane Thomas-Williams

Married October 11, 2012

Jamelle and Karane were charmed by the numbered serendipity of 10/11/12 when they were planning their wedding after three years of commitment in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Air Force Reservist and DC Police Officer, respectively, held a beautiful ceremony just outside of DC and exchanged their vows in front of over 100 family members and friends. "When you're in a relationship with someone, you are building something together," Jamelle explained about why marriage matters to her and Karane. "It never occurred to me until just before we got married how much weight was carried behind becoming Mrs. Williams-Thomas. It means so much more than checking a different box on your taxes; it means you have elected to transcend from living for yourself to living for each other." Read more of their story and check out 11 photos from their beautiful wedding HERE

Joshua and Johnathon Hawley-Molloy

Married September 3, 2011

As is the case with many military couples, Joshua and Johnathon's life together reads like an itinterary full of different cities, states, and Moving Days. Josh, an Army brat from Virginia who now serves in the Army himself, met Johnathon, a nurse who immigrated to the United States for work opportunities from Melbourne, Australia, when the two were living in Seattle in 2002. They moved together after ten months of dating to Fairbanks, Alaska, then onto San Antonio, Texas and now finally Kailua, Hawaii. In 2011, they traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate their tenth anniversary in front of friends and family from all over the world. "Marriage matters to us because it is the legal and symbolic representation of our love and commitment to each other," Joshua and Johnathon explained. (Photo by Alexander Morozov)

Stephen Campbell and Mauricio Bermudez

Married September 30, 2011

In their nearly three years together, Stephen and Mauricio have lived all over the country - from forging their relationship in Cincinnati, OH and Lexington, KY to moving to Seattle, WA, and now living in Miami, FL. But when they took a trip to the District of Columbia, exchanged vows and said "I Do" in the Constitution Gardens, they knew they had chosen the right place to marry. "Being married in the Constitution Gardens in DC was amazing," Stephen said. "It was not only a symbol of the rights our forefathers have envisioned for every person - to be equal in the eyes of the law - but also for us to show our marriage should be treated equally." They later celebrated with family and friends at a wonderful ceremony in Seattle. Look at more photos from their WA ceremony HERE

Angela and Fernanda Ferrell-Zabala

Married May 9, 2011

When Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the freedom to marry into law for the residents of District of Columbia in 2009, Angela and Fernanda fell in love with their city even more. "It was wonderful to know that the city we call home valued all of its residents," Angela said. "It made our family and our community more complete." They tied the knot in 2011 on the rooftop of the apartment where they were living at the time, sharing the day with their twin children, friends, and family. "We've fallen in love with the diverse community that DC represents," Angela said. "We're thrilled to be raising our family here."

Carl Cox and Darin Henderson

Married March 4, 2011

This week, Carl and Darin celebrated their second wedding anniversary - and the seventh anniversary of their first official date, when they saw Eartha Kitt perform in Georgetown. The men married in an extravagent wedding in DC after winning a contest from Freedom2Wed.com, and the celebration was a perfect step forward in their loving, committed relationship. Being able to marry in DC was such a pleasure and blessing really," Darin explained. "Having our love recognized by the City meant all the world to us." See more photos from their wedding HERE

Major Stephen and Joshua Snyder-Hill

Married May 3, 2011

Major Stephen Snyder-Hill and his husband Joshua have had a busy two years since getting married in DC. They have devoted much of their time to speaking out about the importance of the freedom to marry and inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the U.S. military. During a Republican parimary debate in Fall 2011, Maj. Snyder-Hill asked candidates a question about their views on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and bravely stood up for his right to be treated equally by his government and the military, even as he was booed by audience members. As a couple, Joshua and Stephen have joined Freedom to Marry and OutServe-SLDN's Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry campaign to share their story of how the so-called Defense of Marriage Act hurts their relationship and disrespects their marriage. They're also plaintiffs in OutServe-SLDN's legal challenge to DOMA, McLaughlin v. Panetta, and they've been photographed by Tatjana Plitt for her photography project demonstrating how DOMA hurts married same-sex couples and their families. Most recently, Joshua is leading a project called the C-Bus of Love, taking 25 couples from Columbus, OH to Washington, D.C. in June 2013 to marry.  "All families are precious and must be protected," Stephen and Joshua said. Watch a video of their story HERE. (Photo by Tatjana Plitt)

Will O'Bryan and Fernando Garcia

Married March 22, 2011

In the spring of 2001, Fernando wasn't aiming to fall in love - he had recently had to say goodbye to his dog, Mori, and needed someone to cheer him up. On a night out with his friends in March, Fernando found that comfort in Will - who had for several days been comforting his own best friend, who had recently lost her dog. "By the time I met Fernando, I was a pro at cheering up people who had lost their animal companions," Will explained. Now, after nearly twelve years together, the comfort that Will and Fernando provide for each other hasn't gone away - and they're thrilled to be married and joined together as spouses. "We are bound to each other as family, as an institution," Will said. "In a chaotic world, we need to affirm loudly that our bond is a stable and reliable. Being married is the most obvious way for us to do that." (Photo by Ward Morrison)

Taka Ariga and Jeremy Ames

Married March 9, 2010

The morning of March 10, 2010, Taka and Jeremy saw two familiar faces beaming up at them from the cover of The Washington Post: Their own. They had gone to the DC Court House the day before, the first day of the freedom to marry in DC, to legally affirm their commitment to each other. They had had a ceremony two years prior to the passage of the marriage bill - on 08/08/08 on a yacht sailing down the Potomac River - but having their commitment respected by their city was important to them. "It felt like we were able to finally fulfill the vows we had made before our family and friends," Jeremy explained. "We feel very lucky to have been a part of this historic occasion and grateful to all those who worked so hard to make marriage equality a reality."

Yohandel Ruiz and Daniel Zavala

Married May 1, 2012

Daniel and Yohandel met nearly two years ago in Miami Beach when Daniel was vacationing from Mexico and unexpectedly fell in love with Yohandel. After Daniel's trip was over, the men continued a long-distance relationship and explored ways to stay together in the United States - since, because of DOMA, Yohandel is not allowed to sponsor Daniel for immigration purposes. On Valentine's Day 2012, Yohandel proposed to Daniel, and they married in Washington, D.C. several months later. Now, like many other married binational same-sex couples, Yohandel and Daniel are working with The DOMA Project to fight for Daniel's green card, which they can't get because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Yohandel said: "Although our newlywed bliss has been tainted by our fight to gain equality, it has made our relationship stronger and more united." The couple shared their story last year with The DOMA Project, which you can watch HERE(Photo: Joanna Chau)