Human Rights Campaign Applauds D.C. Superior Court Decision Rejecting Marriage Referendum

by HRC Staff

Court rules proposed referendum seeking to undo legislation recognizing marriages by same-sex couples from other jurisdictions violates D.C. Human Rights Act.

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, applauded a D.C. Superior Court ruling today that rejected a proposed referendum on recently passed D.C. legislation recognizing marriages by same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions. The legislation is set to become effective on July 6, 2009, at the conclusion of a Congressional review period.

In her decision, Judge Judith Retchin determined that the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruled properly that the proposed referendum would violate the D.C. Human Rights Act. Under D.C. law, no referendum may authorize discrimination under the Human Rights Act, which, among other things, prohibits the government from denying services or benefits based on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. Judge Retchin also denied referendum proponents a preliminary injunction they sought to delay the effective date of the legislation.

"The court's ruling today is an important victory for fairness, the rule of law and the protection of all D.C. residents against discrimination," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "As D.C. law justifiably recognizes, no referendum should be permitted to strip away any individual's civil rights. Today's decision is another positive step towards achieving equality in D.C. and across the country."

D.C. law currently provides domestic partnerships for same-sex and different-sex couples. Last month, the D.C. Council passed and Mayor Adrian Fenty signed legislation that expressly recognizes marriages by same-sex couples from other jurisdictions, including foreign countries.

Six states have enacted laws recognizing marriage for same-sex couples: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont (effective September 1, 2009), Maine (scheduled to become effective September 2009, pending possible referendum) and New Hampshire (effective January 1, 2010). Outside the United States, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden recognize marriage for same-sex couples.

New York recognizes marriages by same-sex couples legally entered into in another jurisdiction, and the legislature is considering legislation that would permit same-sex couples to marry in New York. California recognized marriage by same-sex couples between June and November of 2008, before voters approved Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to prohibit marriage equality for same-sex couples. The 18,000 marriages of same-sex couples performed in California before the passage of Proposition 8 remain valid.

Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and responsibilities anywhere in the United States. To learn more about state by state legislation, visit:

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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