HRC Blog

DC Marriage Law Closer to Reality as Court Rejects Opponents’ Injunction Request

This post is from HRC's Assistant General Counsel Darrin Hurwitz: DC FlagWith D.C.’s same-sex marriage law expected to take effect on March 3rd, marriage equality opponents have stepped up their efforts to try to halt the law’s implementation by forcing a public referendum. Today, opponents went to court seeking a preliminary injunction, which would have stayed the effective date of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Act of 2009. After hearing from both sides, Judge Holeman tentatively denied the motion from the bench, ruling that the court lacked the power “to usurp the legislative process,” that opponents did not establish a substantial likelihood of success on the merits and that they would not suffer irreparable harm if the law were to take effect as scheduled. Judge Holeman’s ruling is the latest legal setback for opponents of marriage equality in D.C., where for decades the law has presciently prohibited initiatives and referenda that cause discrimination under the Human Rights Act. Three times now the Board of Elections & Ethics has rejected proposed initiatives and referenda that would invalidate legislation overwhelmingly passed by the Council and signed by the mayor recognizing same-sex marriages. The courts have uniformly rejected opponents’ claims that they are being denied a right to vote and have upheld D.C.’s strong anti-discrimination protections. The preliminary injunction sought by opponents is likely the last obstacle before D.C. becomes the sixth U.S. jurisdiction to recognize same-sex marriages. Opponents have vowed to pursue the appeals process, both to stop implementation of the law and to eventually qualify a Prop-8 style initiative defining marriage as between a man and woman. However, as March 3rd – the end of the 30-day Congressional review period – approaches, supporters can be increasingly optimistic that the nation’s capital will soon serve as a powerful and poignant symbol of marriage equality.

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