I shock my law students every year when I tell them that their new-found home, Washington, DC, does not have basic voting rights and does not control its laws. Even if we get a vote in Congress this year, we will still be without any representation in the Senate. And Congress will still control our laws. That's right. Congress can veto any law passed by our City Council or just write some new laws for us if it wishes.
So when our City Council voted this morning to have the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, that's the context it's facing. Fighting for gay rights here always threatens to be a national matter.
In 1981, Congress kept DC from repealing its criminal sodomy statute. (It was 1993 before repeal went into effect). In 1992, Congress kept DC from spending any money to implement its domestic partner registry. That ban was lifted 10 years later. After our courts approved second-parent adoption in 1995, successive Congressional committees sought to ban the practice as a condition of paying the city for the services it provides the federal government. One amendment to that effect got as far as a conference committee, where Clinton administration intervention kept it from passage.
So the unanimous vote this morning to recognize same-sex marriages is just the first step. The bill will have another "reading" before it goes to the Mayor for his signature. Then it goes to Capitol Hill, where it sits for 30 legislative days during which it can be disapproved.
Is it any wonder our license plates read "Taxation Without Representation"?