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Same-sex marriage (SSM)

Washington, District of Columbia

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According to the Census Bureau's 2005-2007 data, there are 3,839 same-sex couples in Washington DC. In 2005, there were an estimated 33,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual adults in the District. They comprised about 8.1% of the total adult population.

Prior to 2009, Washington DC provided domestic partnerships for both same-sex and opposite-sex partners.

On 2009-APR-07, the city council approved unanimously a resolution to recognize legal SSMs that had been performed outside the District. On 2009-MAY-05, the resolution received its second reading and was passed 12 to 1. Because of the unique status of the District of Columbia, the implementation of resolutions passed by the city council are delayed by 30 working days to allow Congress to review and possibly veto them. No such veto occurred, and so the resolution became effective on 2009-JUL-07 at 12:01 AM.

A group of religious conservatives held anti-SSM rallies and asked the city Board of Elections and Ethics to conduct a referendum to veto the recognition of out-of-state SSMs. On 2009-NOV-17, the referendum request was rejected because it did not meet the legal requirements. Referenda that introduce discrimination based on race, gender, religion or certain other criteria are not allowed in the District.

On 2009-DEC-01, the city council voted to legalize SSM in Washington DC by a vote of 11 to 2. They voted again on DEC-15 with the same 11 to 2 result.

On 2009-DEC-18, as promised, Mayor Adrian M, Fenty (D) signed the bill into law. This legalized same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia.

The final steps to allow SSM for loving, committed DC same-sex couples to marry were successfully dodged:


Two potential vetos by Congress were not passed, and

bullet A potential court-ordered plebiscite involving DC voters that was promoted by religious conservatives was rejected.

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletStep 1: First law "JAMA" to recognize out-of-state SSMs in Washington DC:

bullet Council resolution. Reaction to the resolution
bullet More reaction to the resolution
bullet Out-of-state SSMs recognized in DC.
bullet First petition for an initiative to veto SSM
bullet The Board's ruling on the first petition. Reactions to the ruling. Court case

bulletStep 2: Second initiative launched to prohibit SSMs

bullet Second initiative proposed to Board. Rejected. Second court case.

bulletStep 3: Second law to allow same-sex couples to marry in DC:

bullet Bill to legalize SSM in DC introduced. Hearings held on the bill & referendum
bullet Religious freedom aspects of the bill
bullet More information on hearings before two city committees
bullet Bill passes two votes by City Council & becomes law. Reactions
bullet Reaction by a Roman Catholic academic & agency
bullet Two attempts to defeat SSM in DC: a veto, and a bill in Congress
bullet A third and fourth attempt to defeat SSM. Marriage licenses become available.

A court case to authorize a plebiscite on same-sex marriage (SSM): 2009 to 2010.

bullet Appeal to the D.C. Court of Appeals & U.S. Supreme Court: 2010 to 2011.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update this menu. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Melissa Giaimo, "Married gays see progress in D.C. Law affects taxes, rights for couples wed elsewhere," Washington Times, 2009-JUL-07, at: 
  2. "A bill 18-482 in the council of the District of Columbia," Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, 2009-NOV-10, at: This is a PDF file.

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Site navigation:

Home page > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Couples > SSM > Washington DC > here

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Copyright 2009 & 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posting: 2009-NOV-16
Latest update: 2010-JUL-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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