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How Come D.C. Marriage Officials Told Mark Reed + Dante Walkup Their Skype Wedding Would Be Valid?

The couple who were physically in Texas while their officiant was in D.C. piped in over Skype during their wedding was told the city wouldn’t recognize their nuptials. So how come the city originally told the couple they would?

Mark Reed and Dante Walkup — who you might recognize from this videotaped blowup where they battled with other queer activists — claim they checked with D.C. officials to make sure their e-marriage would be valid, the Daily Mail reports. But then …

But a letter they received last week from the Superior Court now states their union was invalid, because they and Reverend Sheila Alexander-Reid were not physically present in Washington D.C. It said: ‘The return is invalid because it has come to the attention of the court that the subject contracting parties to the marriage and you, the officiant, did not all personally participate in a marriage ceremony performed within the jurisdictional and territorial limits of the District of Columbia.’ The letter then advises the Walkups to return to D.C. to perform the ceremony again in person if they want their marriage to be considered legal.

The couple claim that when they visited a marriage bureau in D.C. in May to check whether they could get married over Skype, they were told the law only required the officiant to be in the district. Mark told Unfair Park: ‘In good faith, we planned our wedding accordingly because we thought we were talking to the experts.’ He was also angry after the court failed to give them any notice their licence was under review. Dante Reed-Walkup said he believed the decision was politically motivated as a result of the publicity they received. ‘It was based on homophobia or politics or both,’ he said.

Is it an example of a bureaucratic mixup, where two sets of officials told them conflicting things, or actual bias because of their sexuality? Sounds like the latter, says U-Mich law professor Mae Kuykendall: “There was simply no reason for the court to do something like this. … It’s fairly extraordinary for the court to have taken action adverse to Dante and Mark’s interests based on something they read in the paper without advising them they were contemplating doing so.”