John Shields

Same-Sex Marriage Law Goes into Effect in Washington, D.C.

Filed By John Shields | July 07, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: District of Columbia, marriage equality, same-sex marriage

At 12:01 a.m. today, our nation's capital began recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the District of Columbia, however, remains illegal.

The D.C. City Council overwhelmingly approved the new ordinance in a 12-to-1 vote in May. Democratic Mayor Adrian M. Fenty signed the bill into law.

And so that was that. Right? Wrong...

Laws passed by the District are subject to a 30-day review period by the United States Congress. That review period has now expired, but not after a few homophobes tried to get in the way. Several Republican members of the U.S. Congress objected to the law, but Democratic leaders refused to take up the issue.

As our own Michael Crawford said in a detailed post on how this has played out in our nation's power center, it is "worthy of a soap opera."

In June, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) issued a ruling denying a request by a group of anti-gay clergy members to collect signatures to place on the ballot whether or not the District should recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

The BOEE cited a provision in D.C, election law that prohibits a popular vote on a matter covered by the D.C. Human Rights Act - which includes sexual orientation.

The drama continued for a while, until the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics said enough.

Bilerico's Nancy Polikoff updated us, with this post:

DC Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin cleared the path for the D.C. law recognizing same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.

The 15-page opinion rejects every ground put forward by Reverend Harry Jackson and others, who asked the judge to allow a referendum on the law to go forward and that, pending the referendum, the law be prevented from going into effect.

And so the marriage equality football moves two steps forward, one step back. Even the conservative Washington Times newspaper did an in-depth article on the issue today.

The D.C. Council has openly acknowledged their next move is to legalize marriage equality in the District.

Same-sex couples currently can get married in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa; with Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont following suit in the next several months.

The city will also recognize the marriages of 18,000 same-sex couples in California before Proposition 8 reversed the legalization of gay marriage in the Golden State.

Legal marriages in foreign countries will also be recognized.

The rights include the ability to file "state" taxes jointly, hospital visitation rights, benefits for spouses of employees at private companies and in District government, and spousal immunity from testifying against each other.


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Washington, D.C. is where I was born, and now live. In terms of my civil and human rights, I always felt marginalized, since the entire D.C. population still has no voting representation in the U.S. Congress, and since gays have even fewer rights than the general population, like everywhere else. Growing up, my parents could not even vote for President of the USA until the law was finally changed on that. Today's legal change concerning recognition of marriages performed outside of Washington, D.C. is a step in the right direction.We married last fall in California, before the Prop 8 debacle. The new D.C. marriage recognition also provides substantial property protections, especially in terms of real estate (tenancy by entireties). Let's hope that we see some additional changes in the law to allow same-sex marriages in Washington, D.C., not just recognition from other places.We could also use legal changes to allow our 600,000 people votes in the US Congress, and extension of federal marriage benefits for ALL marriages. With federal taxes at death, gays can end up loosing a house or business to pay the death and estate taxes due when one dies, unlike in the instance of straights. Shouldn't the rights of America be for all Americans? That's why I tell some in the LGBTQ community who oppose marriage or other items on our agenda, "What's wrong with equality?"

Erich Riesenberg | July 7, 2009 12:27 PM

The inheritance tax issue is important, and still exists at the federal level. Requires a lot of planning for an unrelated person to be gifted a house.

and the one descending vote was who?
oh ya, the crack smoking stalker