Marriage Equality in DC – The Road Ahead
December 15, 2009
Now that the Council of the District of Columbia has twice voted to extend marriage equality to same-sex couples, the obvious question is: what’s next. The bill now goes to Mayor Adrian Fenty who has said he will sign it. Because of D.C.’s unique status, all bills passed by the Council and signed by the mayor must be sent to Congress for a 30 legislative day review period (legislative days are when the House and/or Senate are in session, not necessarily calendar days).
It’s rare that Congress has overturned a law passed by the Council through this review process — bills must be introduced and passed in both chambers and be signed by the President. In fact, when the District passed a bill earlier this year to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions, Congressional leaders signaled they had little interest in interfering with the city’s affairs on the matter.
However, another way that anti-LGBT members of Congress have meddled in city affairs has been through the appropriations process. In the past the District’s policies on domestic partnerships, needle-exchange, medical marijuana and others have been overridden or curtailed through Congress’ budgetary authority. In the most recent budget passed by Congress, many of these longstanding restrictions were lifted.
Certainly some who oppose our equality will stop at nothing to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. The National Organization for Marriage was quick to join the fray with a press release announcing their intention to attempt to overturn our progress. And our opponents in Congress will no doubt mount their own efforts just as Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, tried to do over the marriage recognition bill saying, “some things are worth fighting for, and this is one of them.”
Aside from legislative action, marriage equality foes have tried to bring the battle to court. Even after losing the same battle over the marriage recognition bill, Bishop Harry Jackson and others are seeking to put the question of whether or not same-sex couples should be able to marry up to District voters. Last month the elections board ruled again that a proposed ballot measure that would undermine marriage equality in the District is not a proper subject for a referendum or initiative. Still undaunted, Jackson and his cohorts have taken the issue to court again.
So the long and short of it is: today is a tremendous victory for equality but we must remain vigilant as anti-LGBT forces continue to fight against our rights.
Here are a couple of things you can do now:
- First, thank the D.C. Councilmembers who voted for the bill (their contact information can be found here).
- HRC has also launched an action campaign urging our members to write to Catholic leaders in the city who have threatened to cut social services to the city’s needy if they aren’t allowed to discriminate. Tell D.C. Archbishop Weurl not to use the homeless and needy as political pawns.