MR & MR in MD: Jerry & Mark travel to Baltimore to Get Legal
Mark & I have always joked that our commitment ceremony was signing the mortgage on our Monument Avenue home in 1991. We never considered matrimony until it offered tangible benefits, so with the Supreme Court’s momentous decision and the IRS’s ruling, we were ready.
DC is the closest place where we could get legal, but the process basically takes 5 days. Maryland has a 48-hour wait, so we decided to take the train up for a pre-honeymoon/marriage in Baltimore, the city made famous by John Waters.
The Korean Navy Performs at the Inner Harbor
We opted not to stay in the Inner Harbor, where all the prime tourist stuff is located. Instead, we chose “downtown,” which is only 2 blocks away. If the weather cooperates, Baltimore is pretty walkable. Charles Street is the main North/South road. The closest parallel in Richmond would probably be Main Street. It starts downtown with corporate towers, then moves up north with smaller retail, lots of restaurants and The Hippo, Baltimore’s most famous gay bar.
Our hotel choice was The Lord Baltimore, a former Radisson property that’s been neglected to the point of almost being shut down. The Rubell family, art patrons, hoteliers and inheritors of Studio 54 founder Steve Rubell’s fortune, recently bought the property. They love acquiring old hotels and restoring them to their original glory. With The Lord Baltimore, they’ve got plenty of work to do. The current rooms are average in every way and the hotel is a bit stressed. The staff was always unerringly polite. Director of Sales Lee Johnson took us for a sneak preview of the new rooms, which will be sleek and modern in shades of gray.
The Lord Baltimore Hotel
When the renovation is complete in April, this will go from three to a four stars. They aim to have the best concierge in the city with all the right answers for any traveler. Since 3 members of the management team are gay, they’re certainly very hospitable to our community. As Johnson explained, it’s not about a “gay” getaway, but about an exceptional experience for every guest, period.
The Baltimore visitor’s center proved useless. The man behind the counter couldn’t tell us about live theater or cool places to shop. We wandered around the Inner Harbor and stumbled on an outdoor concert by a Navy band from Korea! The retail in the buildings that frame the water are mostly tourist junk, with the exception of a large H&M and Urban Outfitters. Across the street, The Gallery was a 4-story collection of typical retail. After asking several people, we concluded that Baltimore isn’t a good place for fashion. There goes a new wedding frock!
The highlight of our stay had to be the wacky and wonderful American Visionary Museum, chocked full of unusual, crazy and amazing outsider art. Their gift shop even had a rack of tux jackets for $15. Frock problem solved!
Exterior of the American Visionary Museum
Anne, a transplanted friend from Richmond, picked us up for a trip to Hampden and an amazing dinner at Woodberry Kitchen. It’s one of those restaurants where everything is delicious and interesting, layered with unusual ingredients (sweet potato in my tomato pasta). Bonus, the waiters were all cute. If you don’t drive, grab a cab and check it out. Exceptional and getting a national rep.
One of Baltimore’s most impressive efforts is the Charm City Circulator:four bus routes that pretty much hit every major tourist destination and they’re free! A great way to navigate the city (although they stop running at 9pm on weeknights).
Our adventure at the License Bureau couldn’t have been more pleasant. Our clerk, Tonette was quietly sweet. I loved her name (right out of a John Waters movie). The only thing they asked to see was $85 cash. We raised our right hands and affirmed that all the information was true, then gave verbal responses. No ID needed.
MD Marriage office Clerk/officiant Tonette
When our 48 hours was up, we returned to the courthouse, which is only 2 blocks from the hotel. They have a special “Civil Ceremony” room with wilted plastic flowers that only John Waters could love. We signed the big book, took quick generic vows and took a photo with Tonettte.
Since we only had the one witness in Baltimore, we’re having big celebration in Richmond. I directed “Regrets Only” at Richmond Triangle Players last year, so I contacted Managing Director Phil Crosby to ask if we might use the theater for our party. He was thrilled and we loved the political and artistic statement it makes. Plus, since we don’t need gifts, the alternate of a contribution to the theater is a win-win.
23 years, 9 months and 1 week after we met (at the Downtown YMCA, no less) we finally got legally married. Our strongest impression of Baltimore was the non-wavering friendliness. Everyone we came into contact with: strangers on the bus, store clerks, even the inevitable downtown homeless, was polite and outgoing.
The happy couple with Anne, their witness
Since Baltimore has been making an effort to welcome LGBT visitors for several years, the proliferation of TAG certified hotels is long. They even have a 66-page LGBT visitors guide. More important, their procedure for getting legal is simple and the easy 3-hour Amtrak trip beats driving I-95.
Until Virginia joins the growing trend and makes marriage legal for ALL its citizens, Maryland is the next best option for proximity and time frame. Baltimore is not the most exciting city we’ve visited, but it’s easily navigable and friendly. If you go, be sure to ask for Tonette at the courthouse.
Jerry Williams reviewed movies for WTVR-TV for 14 years and for Style Weekly for 10 years. When he launched his own website in 1998 at TVJerry.com, he took his reviews to the Internet. Through those hundreds of reviews, Jerry kept his sexual orientation muted. So, he's excited to be adding "gay angles" to his postings for GayRVA.com.
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