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A very classy “no”

Timothy Kincaid

January 18th, 2013

The Campaign for Southern Equality is hoeing a tough row. They are fighting for our equality in that part of the nation most reluctant to recognize it, the Southern states.

Part of their strategy is asking for what we don’t have. Personally, I think this is something we must always consider. If we let people go without even asking, they may never confront within themselves the reality that they are harming others.

Since January 1st, 35 LGBT couples from across Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee have stood up for marriage equality in their home states. The WE DO Campaign involves LGBT couples in the Southern communities where they live requesting – and being denied – marriage licenses in order to call for full equality under federal law and to resist unjust state laws.

And as part of that ongoing effort, yesterday couples met at the Arlington County Courthouse to request marriage licenses. Their reception was a very classy “no”: (

Participants gathered in the square to request marriage licenses from Paul Ferguson, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.

“I commend each of you that is coming forward today for your courage. I think you do realize that by law, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow me to issue those marriage licenses to you,” Ferguson said. “I hope that if laws do change in the future, that you will choose to return one day to Arlington County to receive a marriage license.”

More than a dozen couples stepped forward to request marriage licenses from Ferguson. In turn, each was rejected.

“Unfortunately, I am not able to grant that license by law,” Ferguson repeated to each couple.

Each of the couples acknowledged the rejection, some vowing to return for licenses should the laws change.

“You’re just doing your job. We’ve been together 25 years. It hurts to be rejected,” one tearful applicant said to Ferguson. “We know hearts and minds do change, and we hope Virginia will too.”



January 19th, 2013 | LINK

A classy “no” reflects decent public service. Just because the law doesn’t allow for it – perhaps especially because the law doesn’t allow for it, the fellow didn’t need to be (and wasn’t) a dick about it. He showed appropriate respect for those folks. Classy indeed.

January 19th, 2013 | LINK

Not to put a damper this event, but Arlington County is only technically in Va. It was originally a part of DC and there is nothing “Southern” about it. Its much younger, wealthier and more liberal than the rest of the Va or the south at large. The average education level probably higher than even many college towns.

This is a great project, but everyone in Arlington is already on board.

January 19th, 2013 | LINK

I don’t quite see how this is supposed to have any effect. Nobody at the courthouse has any power over this issue, and anyone on the other side seeing a report about it in the news is just going to dismiss it as silly.

January 19th, 2013 | LINK


Respectful responses to our community in this fight have been rare by these types of officials, if you can’t see what type of effect that has, then you need to do some research on human behavior. Signs and statments of support have ONLY been helpful in our movement. Dismissing them as “nothing” is to say we don’t need your support, when in fact this is the way we get laws and views changed.

Michael C
January 19th, 2013 | LINK

Hi Robert, I think Hyhybt was referring to the demonstration itself, not Ferguson’s response to it.

Hyhybt, I agree that most anti-gay people will dismiss this public form of protest as being pointless and silly. That doesn’t make it irrelevant. Some people are anti-gay, MOST people are simply unaware of gay people and what it means to be gay in the United States. Any action to put a face on marriage equality has a positive effect. Every effort to display a societal need for equality brings us closer to healthier and happier lives.

January 19th, 2013 | LINK

Michael C-

Upon re-reading I see you are correct.


I thought you were saying something else, see Michael C’s answer in reply. :)

Hope everyone enjoys their week-end.

January 19th, 2013 | LINK

Hmmmm . . . “asking for what we don’t have. Personally, I think this is something we must always consider.”

Well, yes “consider,” but “actually asking” really IS probably going to be much more useful. . . otherwise, lacking telepathy, most people won’t know what we’d like to have.

January 20th, 2013 | LINK

markanthony, I mostly agree with you, and I would have pretty much completely agreed with you until I learned that Bob Marshall, known in Richmond as Sideshow Bob is born & raised in the DC area and represents a district that is 100% Northern Virginia.

He’s from Virginia’s 13th district and I would post a link to a map of it, but it won’t go through.

We have Bob Marshall to thank for making it illegal for a Virginia based company to give health benefits to gay partners. We have him to thank for the confusing laws that won’t stand constitutional scrutiny but which say that no two people of the same sex can enter any contract that substantially replicates the benefits of marriage.

January 21st, 2013 | LINK

Hyhybt, Michael C —

I’m not sure that anti-gays will dismiss this kind of protest as pointless — I think it’s the sort of thing that worries them, if only subliminally: we made no progress until we started becoming visible, and the tactic that has worked best has been to put a human face on LGBTs and not let the stereotypes stand unchallenged. And I suspect that it’s the smaller, local efforts that have the most impact: it’s easy to shrug off a demonstration in the streets of another city, but your neighbors at city hall, not so much.

January 21st, 2013 | LINK

Hunter, you are exactly right. Humans are good at recognizing patterns – but it takes extra effort to recognize *big* patterns.

As to your comment, I would say that humans are great at resolving cognitive dissonance. And for every gay person who is out and proud and just doing what he or she does and not giving a crap about what some “holy” book says – that creates cognitive dissonance with the fundies.

Either this person who I know and love and who I know to be a solid human being is a sinful piece of trash, or I’m wrong in my “theology.”

For every single out gay person, we build support. Let’s keep at it :)

January 22nd, 2013 | LINK

DN, Thank you for the thoughtful response. I believe that using Del. Bob, who is actually worse than your post suggests, actually strengthens the point that I made in a somewhat clumsy fashion.

PW County, which is where the 13th district is located, is truly an ex-burb of DC. It has a much larger population of African-Americans, lots of single family house with sizable yards, big bible churches. It looks like the “South”. Its an hour plus drive from Arlington and a completely different world.

Arlington looks and feels more like a mix of a highly selective private college campus and a high value business center. Even its physical size is much smaller.

The statement in the post is great, but I wonder if a similar statement from an official from Berkley Ca, Madison WI, or Miami Beach would have been considered noteworthy.

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