HRC Blog

Court of Appeals Ruling Lifts Last Potential Hurdle for D.C. Marriage Equality Law Implementation

DC FlagThis morning, D.C.’s highest court denied marriage equality opponents’ eleventh hour efforts to derail historic legislation set to take effect next Wednesday, March 3rd, that will make D.C. the latest jurisdiction to permit same-sex couples to marry.  The three judge panel of the Court of Appeals ruled unanimously [pdf]. The legislation was overwhelmingly passed by the elected Council and signed by the Mayor in December and is nearly through the mandatory Congressional review period. Opponents sought to stay the effective date of the marriage law pending a public referendum vote. However, last week a D.C. Superior Court judge rejected their motion for a preliminary injunction, a decision upheld today by the Court of Appeals. The courts have uniformly sided with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, which has repeatedly over the past several months rejected ballot measures proposed by anti-LGBT forces denying same-sex marriage rights.  Under D.C. law, initiatives or referenda that violate the decades-old Human Rights Act are not permitted.  The Human Rights Act, among other things, prohibits D.C. government from denying services or benefits based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite a series of court rulings against them, opponents continue to push for a ballot initiative that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.  A Superior Court judge ruled against them last month, and opponents have appealed this decision. The Court of Appeals has set oral argument in the case for May 2010. In the meantime, the nation’s capital is a few days away from joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont in providing marriage equality.  The March 3rd implementation carries additional resonance as neighboring Maryland announced this week that the state can recognize same-sex marriages performed out of jurisdiction. This post is by HRC Assistant General Counsel Darrin Hurwitz.

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