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How to get married in D.C., Maryland & Delaware

Clayton Zook, Tracy Staples, Wayne MacKenzie, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, Tilghman Island

Marriage equality expanded throughout the mid-Atlantic in 2013 with Maryland and Delaware joining D.C. in allowing same-sex couples to wed. Clayton Zook and Wayne MacKenzie tied the knot on New Year’s Day in 2013 on Tilghman Island. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

So you’re considering taking the plunge, but do you know exactly how to get married? Where to obtain a license? Where it’s legal?

The good news for D.C.-area couples is that you have three local options for tying the knot, as same-sex marriage is legal in D.C., Maryland and Delaware. Virginia lags but two lawsuits are working their way rapidly through the courts and could lead to marriage equality in the commonwealth in the not-too-distant future.

All couples, including same-sex couples, planning to get married in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Delaware must first obtain a marriage license at a designated government office or courthouse.

Each of the three jurisdictions provides couples with the option of getting married at a courthouse or county government office in a civil ceremony performed by an official appointed by the jurisdiction. The couples may also select a member of the clergy to perform the marriage at a religious institution or other location of the couple’s choosing.


District of Columbia

Marriage Bureau

D.C. Superior Court

500 Indiana Ave., N.W., Room 4555

Washington, D.C.


• One or both of the parties or a designated surrogate must come to the Marriage Bureau to complete a marriage license application.

• Identification and proof of age is required for both parties in the form of a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport.

• The minimum age for marriage in D.C. is 18. Persons of the age of 16 or 17 may marry with the consent of a parent or guardian.

• The marriage license application fee is $35 and the marriage certificate fee is $10. All fees must be paid in cash or by money order payable to the Clerk, D.C. Superior Court.

• Previous marriage information is required from both parties, such as documentation of a divorce or the death of a former spouse and the state or jurisdiction of the previous marriage.

• Religious celebrants and judges other than those of the D.C. courts must be authorized by the court and registered by the Marriage Bureau in order to perform a legal marriage in D.C.

• The full name of the intended celebrant must be given at the time the application is submitted.

• A recently enacted D.C. law, the Marriage Officiant Amendment Act of 2013, allows the couple getting married to select any adult to perform their marriage as a “temporary officiant.” The new law also allows the couple to perform their own marriage. The law applies only for marriage ceremonies performed outside the courthouse.

• Under a separate, longstanding D.C. law, three full days must pass between the time the marriage license application is submitted and the time the license can be issued. One or both members of the couple or a designee must return in person to pick up the license. The license has no expiration date.

• At the time the marriage license application is submitted, a request for a civil wedding at the courthouse may be made. A clerk will schedule the ceremony with a court official who will perform the marriage on or close to a date selected by the couple but not sooner than 10 business days after the license is issued.

• The marriage ceremony room accommodates approximately 10 to 15 guests. There is no fee for the ceremony.




• Marriage licenses in Maryland are issued by the Clerk of the Circuit Court in each of the state’s 23 counties and the City of Baltimore, which is treated as a county. The fee for a marriage license varies from county to county but is usually within the range of $35 to $55.

• Maryland law requires that the marriage license be obtained from the Circuit Court in the county where the marriage is to take place regardless of the place of residence of the couple to be married.

• The marriage license must be obtained at least 48 hours before the marriage ceremony. Couples may seek a waiver of the two-day waiting period from a judge, and military service or illness is considered grounds for a possible waiver.

• A divorced person must provide a copy of the divorce decree that shows where and when the divorce took place. A license cannot be processed without this information.

• Identification for both parties, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, or military I.D. must be presented at the time the application is submitted.

• In some counties, such as Montgomery County near D.C., out-of-state residents may obtain a license application form by email for a fee of $55. The application must be returned along with the fee by mail. In Montgomery County, officials will mail the license to the couple.

• A marriage license in Maryland expires in six months if the couple doesn’t marry within that time.

• In many counties, a judge, Clerk of the Circuit Court or a designated deputy clerk of the court are available to perform civil marriage ceremonies at the courthouse for a fee. Couples interested in a civil ceremony by the court should contact the Circuit Court in the county in which they plan to marry.

• An individual of the age of 16 or 17 must present proof of consent of a parent or guardian in order to obtain a marriage license. An individual of the age of 16 or 17 that doesn’t have parental permission and an individual at age 15 may be granted a marriage license if a licensed physician provides a certificate stating that the woman to be married is pregnant or has given birth to a child.




• Marriage licenses in Delaware are issued by the County Clerk’s Office in each of the state’s three counties – New Castle County (Wilmington), Kent County (Dover), and Sussex County (Georgetown, which is near Rehoboth Beach).

• The couple must appear together at the county clerk’s office to apply for the license and must bring identification such as a driver’s license or birth certificate to confirm their identities.

• There is a one-day waiting period for obtaining the marriage license upon completion of the application for state residents and a four-day waiting period for out-of-state residents. The license is valid for 30 days.

• The application fee ranges from $30 to $100 depending on the county.

• In Sussex County a marriage license can be applied for online for an additional processing fee of $14.95. However, it must be picked up in person by both applicants at the Sussex County Marriage Bureau. It may be used anywhere in the state.

• Applicants must be at least 18 years old to be eligible for a marriage license. If either applicant is under the age of 18 they are considered minors and must petition the Delaware Family Court for authorization to marry.

• An original copy of a divorce decree or annulment decree is required for individuals who have been divorced or whose marriage has been annulled in order to be eligible for a marriage license in Delaware.

• If either applicant is on probation or parole, they must obtain written permission to marry from their probation or parole officer.

• In Sussex County, the Clerk of the Peace John Brady is available to perform “Memorable Marriage” ceremonies any day of the week and at any location within Sussex County, according to information on the Sussex County website,

• Under state law, a witness is required to be present during a wedding ceremony. In Sussex County, the office of Clerk of the Court Brady has arranged for volunteers – including some associated with the Rehoboth Beach LGBT community center, CAMP Rehoboth, to serve as witnesses with a non-mandatory contribution suggested for the center.


Where D.C. rents are headed

In 2013, rents rose in the most expensive U.S. cities (San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Los Angeles), including Washington, D.C., but they did not rise as much in D.C. as elsewhere. Two years ago at this time, the vacancy rates here were so low that it was hard to imagine the balance of supply and demand getting level. But over the last year, a number of new Class A (luxury) apartment projects has filled the market with new units and that number is expected to increase for at least the next three years. In 2009, the number of new apartment units in the pipeline stood at 16,606; by the third quarter of 2013, there were 36,098 new units and counting.

More rental housing choices drives down rental prices, and that’s what the rental market figures show comparing 2013 to the preceding year 2012:

real estate, graph, gay news, Washington Blade, rents

(Data from RealEstate Business Intelligence)

In 2013, the number of days that the average two-bedroom was on the market before renting stood at 42.44, 1.10 percent higher than 2012 (1.56 percent higher if we compare just 4Q2013 to 4Q2012). The longer a property is on the market, the more the market pressure pushes the perceived value down. We start to see this phenomenon at work in 4Q 2013, where the average rental price for a two-bedroom apartment was $2552.85 — the lowest it’s been in the last two years.

Further, notice that the rental volume is only .97 percent higher for 2013, suggesting a slowing down in the rental market. More apartment choices in the market should only increase this slowdown of the rental pace and a softening of rental prices.

That’s good news for renters. In January, Urban Turf, the real estate web site and blog, published an article about what $2,800 (approximately) will rent you in D.C. For $2,900, you could rent a two-bedroom rowhouse on a charming alley on Capitol Hill; for $2,695, a spacious three-bedroom townhome in the H Street corridor; for $2,895, an elegant two-bedroom coop in Kalorama. Those could all be good options for a couple, a small family or a group home for singles.

The spring market will also bring more choices as properties begin to turn at the end of their leases. So between that and the constant influx of newly constructed apartments, it’s a great time to rent if you still aren’t ready to buy. More about this comparison in my next column.

Happy Hunting!

Ted Smith is a licensed Realtor with Real Living | at Home specializing in mid-city D.C. Follow him @TedSmithSellsDC,,  Facebook, or Youtube. You can also join him at free monthly seminars for first-time homebuyers or monthly tours of open houses in a different neighborhood each month. Sign up at


Buds, blooms and blades

home and garden, gay news, National Cathedral, Washington Blade

Flower Mart at National Cathedral. (Photo by Wendy Steck Merriman)



Georgetown’s Book Hill neighborhood holds its annual French Market today (Friday, April 25) and Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Shop at local antique stores and visit art galleries. There will be crepes, sandwiches, French pastries and discounts on wine. Live music, strolling mimes and a Parisian face painter will all be part of the entertainment for the weekend. Dumbarton House and Tudor Place, Georgetown’s historic house museums, will also be open for children arts and crafts activities. For more information, visit

United States Botanic Garden (100 Maryland Ave., S.W.) holds its “Celebrate Earth Day Festival” today (Friday, April 25) from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Watch cooking demonstrations with seasonal produce and meet with representatives of local environmental organizations. Admission is free. For details, visit



Ladew Gardens (3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, Md.) offers numerous events throughout the month.

Its Garden Festival is on May 3 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Shop from about 40 vendors, tour the Gardens and Manor House and also enjoy a nature walk. There will be a “Priority Preview” and lecture from garden ornament and antiques expert Barbara Israel. Tickets for this are $75 for members and $100 for non-members. Price includes a continental breakfast and first chance to shop from vendors. General admission entry begins at 10 a.m. General admission tickets range from $15-50 and are available at the door.

The garden also hosts “Spring Storytime in the Gardens” on May 6 and May 21. On May 6, read about flowers while sitting in the garden for the garden’s “Flower Power” storytime. On May 21, “Blue Bird Blue Sky” will focus on reading about all things blue. “Spring Storytime in the Gardens” is for children ages 2-6. Tickets are $5 per child/adult pair for members and $15 per child/adult pair for non-members. Additional siblings are $5 each.

As part of the garden’s “In the Garden Series” learn advanced gardening skills from professional gardeners on pond maintenance May 21 at 9:30 a.m. Admission is free for members and $10 for non-members. Ticket includes admission to the Gardens and nature walk. Reservations are required. For more details, visit

All Hallows Guild holds its 75th annual Flower Mart at The National Cathedral (3101 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.) May 2 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and May 3 from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. There will be floral and horticultural displays, more than 80 gift vendors, food, folk dancers and live music. Ride an antique 1890s carousel, climb to the bell tower and much more. The festival also includes a used book sale tent, white elephant tent and children’s rides, games and face painting. For details, visit

United States Botanical Gardens presents “Celebrate HerbDay! Festival” May 3 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Learn all about herbs and celebrate their significance through demonstrations, activities and information tables.

The garden also holds a few lectures throughout the month. “Native Perennials with Bling,” a lecture by “The Perennial Diva” Stephanie Cohen, is May 9 from noon-1:15 p.m. Cohen discusses perennial plants and what makes them a good support for wildlife and their sustainability.

“The Fascinating World of Carnivorous Plants,” a lecture by United States Botanical Gardens science education volunteer Todd Brethauer, is on May 24 from 10 a.m.-noon. Brethauer discusses 700 carnivorous plant species that capture and digest insects and small animals. Pre-registration is required. For more details, visit

Green Spring Gardens (12000 Government Center Pkwy., Fairfax, Va.) has “Spring Garden Day: The Big Plant Sale” May 17 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. More than 40 vendors selling rare and unusual plants will be on display. For more information, visit


Tying the knot in style

Powerhouse, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, style, gay news, Washington Blade

Give your reception an industrial vibe at Powerhouse. (Photo by Rodney Bailey; courtesy Powerhouse)

One of the toughest parts of planning a wedding is choosing the right venue. Indoor or out, it can be difficult to choose where to celebrate with family and friends. This list of 12 places includes everything from hotels and art galleries to ships and churches that are guaranteed to make your wedding day one to remember.

Powerhouse. If traditional isn’t your style, try an avant-garde reception at Powerhouse. Located in historic Georgetown, the LGBT-owned-and-operated space was once the D.C. Paper Manufacturing Company’s powerhouse. Now its been converted into a fully renovated two-story space with floor-to-ceiling windows, state-of-the-art sound system and a catering prep kitchen. A second floor mezzanine balcony and exposed brick and steel beams give your special day an unconventional touch. 3255 Grace St., N.W.;

Westin Annapolis. Want to celebrate the big day in luxury? The Westin Annapolis, located in downtown Annapolis, offers a sophisticated setting in its 6,500-square foot ballroom with chandeliers and a pre-function space with a view of Park Place from its 16-foot arched windows. The culinary staff is also available to create customized menus for all types of receptions from a brunch to an elaborate cocktail reception. 100 Westgate Circle, Annapolis, Md.;

Black Walnut Point Inn. Want to get away from it all on the big day? Black Walnut Point Inn is the perfect place to celebrate in seclusion. The gay-owned inn is tucked away on Tilghman Island in Talbot County, Maryland. The Great Lawn features unobstructed waterfront views. Their packages includes a whole weekend with a catered rehearsal dinner and reception, two night stay for couple and up to 20 guests, hors d’oeuvres on the Great Lawn at sunset and more. 4417 Black Walnut Point Rd., Tilgman, Md.;

Corcoran Gallery of Art. The Corcoran Gallery of Art provides more than art for the public to enjoy — it also rents parts of the gallery for private events, including weddings. Give a Parisian vibe to your reception in the Salon Doré room. The room seats 50 and includes Corinthian pilasters, trophy panels and mirrors all original and once part of the hôtel de Clermont, a historic private residence in Paris. The Atrium and the Bridge are also available to rent and can seat 100-900 guests. 500 17th St., N.W.; 

Metropolitan Community Churches. For couples that want an old-fashioned church wedding, Metropolitan Community Churches are a good option. Its mission states it is “a place for all people.” Locations are all across the D.C. metro area including Fairfax Va., College Park, Md., and in the District.

The Black-Eyed Susan. For a different wedding experience, try celebrating at sea. The Black-Eyed Susan allows both a ceremony and reception on board. Provide your own clergy or let the captain of the ship perform the ceremony. The reception takes place on the upper deck and a customized wedding cake is included as part of the package that includes a silver-plated cake knife set as the ship’s wedding present to the happy couple. 2775 Lighthouse Point East, Baltimore;

The Loft at 600 F. An intimate-yet-stylish celebration may be the ideal choice for some couples. The Loft at 600 F, located in the Chinatown/Penn Quarter neighborhood of the District, achieves that combination. The venue offers custom sofas that can be moved into various setups, moveable bars, up-light and accent lighting and a microwave and mini fridge. Getting the party started won’t be a problem with its surround sound receiver, HD projector, Apple TV and 55-inch HD television. 600 F St., N.W.;

Old Hickory Golf Club. The clubhouse at Old Hickory Golf Club is a combination of beautiful views with a gorgeous indoor space. The clubhouse includes a ballroom and dining room with a veranda that overlooks the golf course. Your guest list can include up to 250 people to enjoy lunch or dinner buffets with an optional hors d’oeuvre reception and cocktail party. 11921 Chanceford Dr. Woodbridge, Va.;

River Terra Retreat. A small wedding away from it all can be found at River Terra Retreat, tucked away on the edge of the Potomac River. The family owned home offers a cozy aesthetic with a big front porch, river view balcony, formal dining room and eat-in kitchen. Vegetables and fruits can be taken fresh from the garden depending on the season. Meeting rooms are available for an inside celebration or take the party outside for a tented event on the fenced grounds. 37 4th St., Colonial Beach, Va.;

Hotel Lombardy. If you can’t afford to take your wedding overseas, Hotel Lombardy offers an international theme to bring the world to you in downtown D.C. Feel like you’re vacationing in northern Italy with the Venetian-style rooms, imported fabrics and Oriental wool rugs. Get a taste of France with the Café Lombardy, the hotel’s French-inspired continental bistro offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch for your guests. Let go of wedding planning stress by using the hotel’s professional event planning services who can help make your day special from start to finish. 2019 Pennsylvania, Ave., N.W.;

Lazy L at Willow Creek. Couples that want to bring their dogs along for the celebration should consider Lazy L at Will Creek. This quaint bed and breakfast offers dog-friendly services, such as easily accessible pet friendly beaches and restaurants to make your dog as happy as you are on the big day. The innkeeper is an ordained chaplain and can provide officiating services. 16061 Willow Creek, Rd., Del.;

Salero Ocean Front Venue. Make the ocean the focal point of your wedding day on this ocean front wedding venue. Their wedding packages include an open bar, cake service, complete room setup and a chocolate fountain. Full-course meals can also be provided. Their menus are available to view on their website. 511 N Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach, Del.;

A few more of our favorites

Potomac View Terrace at the American Pharmacists Association

2215 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037

Black Walnut Point Inn

4417 Black Walnut Point Road
Tilghman, MD 21671

Glenview Mansion at Rockville Civic Center Park

603 Edmonston Drive
Rockville, MD 20851

The Henley Park Hotel

926 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

National Press Club

529 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20045

Wolf Trap



Queery: Renee Perrier-Combs

Renee Perrier-Combs, Rainbow Families, gay news, Washington Blade

Renee Perrier-Combs (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Renee Perrier-Combs is a living testament to the effectiveness of the Rainbow Families biannual Family Conference.

She first attended in 2010 and was astounded such an event existed. At the next one in 2012, she and her partner of eight years, Karen Perrier-Combs, found a school for their 5-year-old daughter, Amaris, a school they were previously unaware of.

“They have great vendors there and we really got to figure out what was the best fit for our family,” Perrier-Combs says. “It’s just one of the advantages of the conference. You get such a wealth of information and there’s such camaraderie, spirit and energy there, it’s just a wonderful space.”

The 43-year-old Louisiana native came to Washington in 1990 to go to college at Howard University. She works by day as a supervisory social worker with Arlington County Department of Human Services but has been involved with Rainbow Families for three years and served on its board since last September.

This year’s Family Conference is slated for April 26 from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at Georgetown Day School (4200 Davenport St., N.W.) and will feature expos, information, networking and fellowship. Comedian Judy Gold is the guest speaker. Registration ($40 for members; $50 for non-members) is available at This year’s theme is “Creating Our Families, Building Our Community, Celebrating Our Strength.”

Perrier-Combs lives with her family in Brookland. She enjoys spending time with her wife and daughter in her free time.


Renee Perrier-Combs, Rainbow Families, gay news, Washington Blade

Renee Perrier-Combs with her family. (Photo by Marvin Joseph)

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I came out to myself in the midst of my first marriage to a wonderful man.  Shortly after our divorce in 2002, I began to date women. My maternal grandmother, who raised me, was the hardest person to tell. Karen and I were on our honeymoon in Myrtle Beach when I took the call from my grandmother, who had just learned from a family friend of our marriage. Her admonishing words are forever sealed in my mind.


Who’s your LGBT hero?

There are three: Audre Lord, Bayard Rustin and Edith Windsor. These three individuals exemplified the essence of social justice with the sole purpose of advocating for a just and inclusive society when it was unheard of to do so.


What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

I’m not into the nightlife or club scene. I prefer an evening with friends filled with good conversation, laughs and delicious food.


Describe your dream wedding.

I had my dream wedding on Sept. 22, 2013. My wife and I chose the venue of the courtyard at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters for our ceremony, followed by a fabulous reception at the renowned Sofitel Hotel in Washington, D.C. We were surrounded with so much love from our family members and our beloved community of friends.


What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

I am very passionate about the inequity of wealth in the world. The gap between the haves and the have nots is getting wider.


What historical outcome would you change?

Slavery — the world is still suffering from its ramifications.


What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

The election of President Barack Obama.


On what do you insist?



What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

“This new show Resurrection has left my heart slain and my mind in a daze. Imagine having a deceased loved one return. Just to imagine such an occurrence has the bile of grief welling up in me. Since my beloved grandmother died, I have found myself in whispered, hopeful prayer, asking for one more moment … why did I watch this show”!


If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“You’re Pregnant, I’m Menopausal, That’s Crazy!,” which we fully intend to write.


If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?  

I would be aghast that this would be of any importance to the science world. That said, I would not stand in line for such an inoculation.


What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

I believe that God dwells within us as unconditional love manifested in our daily deeds, actions, thoughts and beliefs.


What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

The struggle continues on all fronts. We must each be diligent in keeping LGBTQ issues in the public’s eye and minds.


What would you walk across hot coals for?

My daughter, Amaris. I really do “dream a world” where she can exceed her potential free from all “isms.”


What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

When society seeks to attach gender roles to my family. We are both women and we equally share responsibilities in our household and relationship.


What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Philadelphia” and “Brokeback Mountain” because of the global message of love that belongs to everyone, not just mainstream society.


What’s the most overrated social custom?

How obsessively connected we are to our electronic devices.


What trophy or prize do you most covet?

To make the New York Times bestseller list.


What do you wish you’d known at 18?

The only thing permanent in life is change. It would have saved me a pound of grief. As the biblical passage goes, “this too shall pass.”


Why Washington?

I came to Washington from New Orleans to attend college. I chose to make Washington my second home because of its inclusive laws and progressive culture that validates my family.


Miss Pixie’s Now Open In Rehoboth

Miss Pixie's, Home & Garden, gay news, Washington Blade, Rehoboth

(Photo courtesy of Miss Pixie’s)

Miss Pixie’s of Rehoboth is now open and will be open every day for the season starting May 18th!

Pixie will be doing free consultations for rental properties.

The store “By The Sea” includes mostly the same style of fun, functional, affordable pieces as the D.C. location, but more of the whatnots and small finds: Garden furniture, lamps, and local art, as well as Lancaster farm tables available for order!

There will be a design consultant on staff to work with clients in the beach area. Fun weekend events will be held in the store.

Check the Miss Pixie’s Facebook pages —  and — and Web site for more details on events, inventory, and store hours!


What is marriage, anyway?

wedding, marriage, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade, spousal benefits

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)


Marriage is generally understood in our society as an emotional and social institution, signifying and celebrating the love and devotion between two people and demonstrating a commitment to that relationship above all others. But marriage is also a business and contractual relationship that is given great deference by the laws of our country, on both the federal, state, and local levels. Once a couple is married, spouses are no longer individuals, but part of a marital unit. On the federal level, there are more than 1,000 rights and responsibilities associated with marriage. On the state and local level, there are usually more than 400 such rights and responsibilities.

The “marital unit” is treated differently in the law than the two spouses were as individuals.  For example, any income coming into the “marital unit” post-marriage, belongs presumptively equally to both spouses, no matter who earned the income. So, if one spouse saves money in retirement, the other spouse is entitled to one-half of that amount if the couple divorces. States and the District of Columbia may treat marriage somewhat differently if the couple divorces.  Accordingly, spouses would be wise to execute a pre-nuptial agreement prior to their marriage, in order to define the couple’s agreements as to how their property would be divided in the event of divorce.

Other impacts of the marriage contract range from taxes to immigration to estate planning to children, and more. As same-sex couples take advantage of new opportunities to marry in the United States, these consequences can be welcome but confusing reminders of just how much marriage matters in American society.

Most of the federal government now recognizes marriages between same-sex couples as long as the marriage was valid where it occurred, known as the “place of celebration” rule.  Locally, Maryland, the District of Columbia and Delaware have marriage equality, while Virginia and West Virginia do not. The federal government applies the “place of residence” rule in some instances, so couples living in non- marriage equality states (non-recognition states) do not have valid marriages under that rule. However, Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the federal government will make every effort to treat all validly married same-sex couples as married for federal government purposes.

Application of tax rates are one of the biggest impacts of marriage. Married couples must file either as married filing jointly, or married filing individually. As a general rule, if couples have a significant income disparity, marriage will reduce their taxes, but if the couple is relatively equal in income, marriage will increase those taxes. Married couples have no choice – they MUST file their taxes as married. Couples that are registered as Domestic Partners in the District of Columbia must also file their D.C. taxes as “married.” Married couples are also eligible for estate tax exemptions, now both on the federal level and in their state of residence if the state has marriage equality, like Edie Windsor. Married couples in Maryland are also exempt from Maryland’s inheritance tax. Also, after Windsor, a couple may be able to amend its federal tax returns to claim certain exemptions and to reduce income that had previously been taxed when the federal government did not recognize their marriage.

For same-sex couples wishing to have children, marriage creates a legal presumption of parentage, meaning that any child born or conceived to one spouse during the marriage is presumed to be the legal child of the other spouse. This can be extremely important to ensure that a non-birth parent continues to have a legal right to custody and decision-making power over the child, even in the event of divorce, or the birth parent’s death or incapacity. However, since not all states have marriage equality, we recommend that even married couples obtain a second-parent adoption or pre- or post-birth order so that their parental rights are recognized in all states.

Employee benefits, immigration, Social Security, the military, taxes, retirement rollovers, criminal matters, and of course, even more areas are impacted by marriage. The law continues to evolve, and there are about 45 lawsuits throughout the country, including two in Virginia, attempting to establish marriage equality in those states that still do not recognize our marriages.  So, even if couples are married in one state, if they move to a non-recognition state, or perhaps are even traveling through such a state, their marriages will not be considered valid if a marriage issue arises in that state.

Marriage does not hold all the answers. As with everything, there may be downsides to getting married, and individual couples must decide for themselves whether the rewards outweigh the risks. For example, if one member of a couple is receiving alimony, that alimony generally will end at remarriage. Or if one member of the couple receives income-based government benefits, marriage may then disqualify that spouse from receiving those benefits.  Couples should consult with an attorney before they marry to discuss the legal risks and rewards of marriage. But, of course, there is more to marriage than all of these rights and responsibilities.  And sometimes, for some couples, marriage does come down to love and commitment, and the legal aspects are just secondary.

Michele Zavos is partner, Zavos Juncker Law Group, PLLC. Cody Perkins is a law clerk at the firm. The Zavos Juncker Law Group practices in all three local jurisdictions.


Green machines

Prius V, autos, gay news, Washington Blade, green

Prius V

Looking for eco cred? There’s plenty in auto showrooms this spring: hybrids, plug-ins, electric vehicles, diesels, even traditional combustion engines with start-stop systems and other fuel-saving technology. Many are as fun as they are functional.

MPG: 44 city/40 highway
0-to-60 mph: 10.3 seconds

Eking out an impressive 55 mpg — or even more, depending on how you drive — the Prius sedan remains the most popular hybrid. Even Bradley Cooper drives one. Now there’s the larger Prius V wagon, which sacrifices a bit of fuel economy but offers 60 percent more cargo room. And this doesn’t include the two gloveboxes and huge center console. Like the sedan, the wagon is pokey but practical, with large dashboard controls, easy-to-use shift lever and standard rearview camera. There’s little sizzle here, thanks to the boxy exterior and acres of hard plastic trim. But there’s lots of tech gear: Bing search-engine functionality, Pandora radio and the latest info for weather, traffic and local fuel prices. And the panoramic moonroof with electric sunshades is a great touch.

VW Jetta Hybrid, autos, gay news, Washington Blade, green

VW Jetta Hybrid

MPG: 42 city/48 highway
0-to-60 mph: 7.8 seconds

For a little less cash, there’s a lot more dash with the Jetta Hybrid, especially compared to the Prius V. The downside: there’s a third less cargo room. Still, hybrid drivers looking for a thrill will like the Jetta’s tight cornering, taut braking and strong turbo (this is one of the quickest hybrids out there). Along with a slick rear spoiler, there’s keyless entry/ignition, heated seats/mirrors and some savvy safety options — like a stolen-vehicle locator and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set limits for teenage drivers). While the five-inch nav display is tiny, it’s also one of the easiest to use.

BMW 328d xDrive
MPG: 32 city/45 highway
0-to-60 mph: 6.8 seconds

BMW’s beloved 3 Series gets a diesel this year. The 328d is smoother and sportier than the Jetta Hybrid, though it also costs $12,000 more. Clean diesels are becoming more popular, and this one — with a 180-hp, four-cylinder turbo — is extremely fuel-efficient. There are gobs of glam amenities including a heated steering wheel and power liftgate as well as blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and even a driver drowsiness monitor. For racing aficionados, the macho “M Sport” package adds a firmer suspension, form-fitting seats and flashy 18-inch alloys.

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Dodge Ram 2500 diesel

MPG: 15 city/20 highway
0-to-60 mph: 8.4 seconds

Consumer Reports just named the Ram the best truck of the year and the diesel model is even better — with plenty of pick up for a pickup. Choice of either two- or four-door models, both with almost sedan-like handling. The plush, Lexus-like cabin has heated seats (front and back), Bluetooch, sunroof and large 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with 10-speaker stereo. There’s also a rearview camera and power-adjustable pedals to accommodate drivers of all sizes. Sure, gas mileage is far from a Prius. But when only a heavy-duty hauler will do, this is a good green option.


Want the best of both worlds?

condo, condominium, real estate, gay news, Washington Blade

Condominium remodeling is now an increasing portion of some remodeling firms’ business.

Condominium living, particularly in urban areas, largely was a preference of Gen Xers who sought to be at the heart of city life with its conveniences and distinct culture. However, of late, empty nesters uninterested in maintaining large homes have been leaving the suburbs to dwell in urban neighborhoods.

Empty nesters’ entry into the condo market has spurred a home design trend as homeowners seek the convenience and accessibility of urban living, but without forgoing the amenities and finishes of their larger, custom homes. The trend is growing across the Metropolitan Area – including the District, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Alexandria and McLean. Projects range from pull-and-replace kitchens to remodeled master suites to whole-unit renovations. Condominium remodeling is now an increasing portion of some remodeling firms’ business.


Finding, Evaluating the Right Unit

For those of you who are looking to buy a condo and are entertaining the idea of a remodel, keep in mind that each building is unique and some projects may be more feasible than others (even within the same building). Consider consulting someone who is an expert in your particular building before making an offer.


Love Thy Neighbor

If you recently have moved to a condo, you might appreciate this play on the old real estate adage: “Location, location, relationships.” Why the edit? Relationships are a key component to managing a condo remodel. A successful condo remodel project requires the delicate handling of a residential project and the complex systems of commercial building. Managing relationships with a condo board, building manager, engineer and others requires a specific skill set so be sure to work with a remodeler who has experience in the specialized job of condo renovations. Remodelers must address noise and debris regulations, access and tenant/worker safety, which are common issues with low- and high-rise residential projects. Strategic process and communication are critical to establishing and maintaining a good rapport with your new neighbors, building management and engineers.


Customizing Your Perfect Condo

Once you dive into the design phase, you’ll soon learn that one of the greatest benefits of condo remodeling is that the dollars previously spent on landscaping can instead be spent on finishes, appliances, flooring and the other interior comforts. Those dollars can go a long way in customizing ample storage, ensuring privacy for guests, replicating a beloved gourmet kitchen or making the space feel more open – all common concerns when transitioning from a single family home.

The current trend toward condo living is exciting. There are many possibilities for turning your condo unit into a condo home.



Home, garden, GardenWise, gay news, Washington Blade

(Images courtesy of GardenWise)

The rear of this Northwest DC Palisades neighborhood home is very open and contemporary, which inspired a more simplistic Asian-influenced look, with the steel arbor, separating the parking court from the home and raised patio space. A low stone wall with a built-in firebox adds warmth to the courtyard space during the cooler parts of the year.

For more info, please contact GardenWise. DC 202.543.3422. VA 703.243.5982.