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Maryland same-sex couple on quest to marry in every state

Tuesday - 2/14/2012, 7:42am  ET

Jessica Leshnoff and Holly Beatty (Capital News Service)
essica Leshnoff and Holly Beatty pictured before their first wedding in Washington, D.C., in November 2008. (Courtesy of Jaime Windon)

By KARA ROSE
Capital News Service

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - When Jessica Leshnoff and Holly Beatty married in Vermont last March, it was the second time they tied the knot -- in one day.

The Baltimore City couple commemorated their three-year marriage anniversary with a wedding blitz, complete with ceremonies in New York and Vermont. The trip came after two weddings in Washington, D.C., once in 2008 -- before it was legalized in the city -- and an official ceremony in 2010.

While their marriage is recognized by Maryland, the couple hopes to soon marry legally in their home state. But that won't happen unless Gov. Martin O'Malley successfully pushes through same-sex marriage legislation after supporters failed to do so last year.

Leshnoff and Beatty said their wedding blitz would continue next month to mark their four-year anniversary, with anticipated stops in Connecticut, Iowa and Massachusetts.

"We're going to go to every single place that we can get married and get married there until it is legal everywhere and it is federally recognized," said Leshnoff, a 33-year old copywriter.

While they pay their state taxes as a couple, Leshnoff and Beatty, 37, an interior designer and construction management consultant, still have to file their federal taxes separately.

"That is really, really infuriating when you get treated as married in your state, but country-wide you are treated as single," Leshnoff said. "I really feel it's a separate and not equal thing. ... It would be nice if we really truly were married in Maryland and got all of the benefits of a married couple in Maryland."

"We shouldn't have to go around the back door for everything," Beatty added. "That's not the way it should be -- not when we have an 11-year relationship that is just as strong, or stronger, than many heterosexual relationships."

The couple met at a club in the district in April 2001 and went on their first date a month later.

"We met serendipitously, we started talking outside and I got Holly's email address. I emailed her a week later and we talked on the phone or emailed every single day after that," Leshnoff said.

Leshnoff and Beatty had a traditional Jewish wedding in Washington in November 2008 performed by a rabbi with 150 friends in attendance and a reception afterwards at the Human Rights Campaign's Equality Center. That was before same-sex marriage was fully legalized on March 3, 2010, in the district.

Two weeks after the legalization, while many paraded through the streets of Washington, D.C., adorned in green for St. Patrick's Day, the couple was formally married in Dupont Circle by a Washington Ethical Society officiant.

To commemorate the first anniversary of their official legal marriage, the couple decided to marry in multiple states on March 17, 2011. They started in New York and documented their journey on Leshnoff's blog, lunchat1130.com.

"The ceremony in Brooklyn, N.Y., was truly my dream ceremony -- performed by a judge in a courthouse," Leshnoff said. "(It was) something heterosexual couples were always afforded but we weren't. It felt just like a movie!"

With their hands full of sandwiches and snacks, the couple began their journey up Interstate 91 to Connecticut: the second stop on their wedding blitz.

However, because they said they were previously married, officials in the municipal building in Hartford, Conn., refused to marry the couple.

When the officials asked why they wanted to get married again, Leshnoff said: "Because we can." (When they to return to Connecticut next month to try again, the couple said that, this time, they will not volunteer their marriages in other states.)

The couple eventually made it to Brattleboro, a small town just across the Vermont border, and entered the courthouse just before 5 p.m. for their second -- and final -- wedding of the day.

"We wanted to get married for the same reasons as anyone else does," Leshnoff said. "It's a way to celebrate your love with friends and family, and I think it's just a cultural milestone in your relationship to get married. I think it's ingrained in all of us."

While they are excited to add more states to their list, Leshnoff said she hopes same-sex marriage is federally recognized before they reach all 50. The couple also hopes the legislation in Maryland will pass this year so they can finally marry in their home state.

The legislation failed to pass last year, but O'Malley has become a much more vocal advocate for its passage this year. At a hearing of two House committees Friday, O'Malley said he would not support amending the legislation to send it to a referendum vote by Maryland citizens.

With O'Malley's support, Leshnoff said that the legislation has a better chance of passing this time around. Either way, the couple said, it comes down to an issue of "equality."

"We are just normal, average people who go to the supermarket and go to Starbucks and fall asleep watching movies on the couch," Leshnoff added. "We are just an average couple, who both happen to be female."

(Copyright 2012 by Capital News Service. All Rights Reserved.)