Annandale residents Kären Rasmussen and Barb Brehm didn't walk into the Fairfax County Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon with high hopes.
They knew Virginia law denies same-sex couples the right to marry and, despite the fact the partners have committed themselves to each other for the past 27 years, Valentine's Day proved no exception.
Fairfax Circuit Court Clerk John Frey met Rasmussen and Brehm in the lobby of the courthouse and escorted them to a conference room. The women filled out paperwork necessary to obtain a marriage certificate and Frey provided a letter explaining why state law would not permit him to issue one.
"Mr. Frey was incredibly gracious," Brehm said. "That doesn't mean it was wrong to ask and to keep asking."
Nearly 300 supporters turned out Tuesday to agree with Brehm, taking a stand for gay marriage on the courthouse lawn. The group clapped and sang for Rasmussen and Brehm as the couple exited the building, holding hands.
Groups represented at the demonstration included People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington and the , where Brehm and Rasmussen are members. Similar demonstrations were scheduled Tuesday in Arlington County and Richmond.
Roger LeBlanc, a freshman at , said he attended Tuesday's event to help raise awareness about LGBT issues. LeBlanc said he served as an usher when his aunt married her partner in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, several years ago.
"I've been a witness to how beautiful and awesome that can be," he said.
Virginia banned gay marriage in 2006. Last year, a Washington Post poll showed 47 percent of the state supported gay marriage while 43 percent remained against it. With a Republican-dominated legislature this year, that stance isn't likely to change any time soon.
Kelly Schlageter, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax and an organizer of Tuesday's demonstration, said momentum for marriage equality is growing in Virginia.
"People are becoming motivated to speak out," Schlageter said.
No counter-demonstrations were apparent on the courthouse grounds.
Rasmussen thanked the crowd for taking time to support them on Tuesday.
"Next time, (the court) might say yes and we want you to be with us when they say yes," she said.
Patch Editor Erica Hendry contributed to this report.