"JAMA" resolution to recognize
SSMs made elsewhere. Reactions.
City Council resolution:
Prior to 2009-MAY, laws in Washington DC allowed both same-sex and opposite-sex
couples to enter into domestic partnerships. However, same-sex marriages could
legally performed in the District. Further, same-sex couples
marrying elsewhere could not have their marriages recognized in the District.
On 2009-APR-07, their city council unanimously passed the first reading of
bill B18-0010 to recognize all same-sex marriages that have been
solemnized in states like Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Canada, etc. where
SSMs are legal. 1 It is called the "Jury and Marriage
Amendment Act of 2009" (JAMA) The bill would add a section to the
Washington bylaws that states:
"Sec. 1287a. Recognition of Marriages from Other Jurisdictions. A
marriage legally entered into in another jurisdiction between 2 persons of the
same sex that is recognized as valid in that jurisdiction, that is not
expressly prohibited by sections 1283 through section 1286, and has not been
deemed illegal under section 1287, shall be recognized as a marriage in the
The exclusions referred to incestuous
marriages, bigamous marriages, or those judicially declared null and void. Also
excluded are marriages with one or more persons who are not of the age of
consent, are mentally incapacitated, had been forced into the marriage or
tricked into the marriage. 4
The council vote was 12 to 0. 2
On MAY-05, the resolution passed its second and
final passage with a vote of 12 to 1. Councilmember Marion Berry (D-Ward 8) was the only
dissenter. He said that he had "agonized" over how to vote. He finally
decided to stand with the Christian "ministers who stand on the moral compass of God."
There was heavy opposition to SSM among both black and conservative Christian
Councilmember David A. Catania, (I) accused Barry of taking a "bigoted" and
disrespectful position toward himself and the other open homosexual on the
council, Democrat Jim Graham. Catania said:
"This issue is whether or not our colleagues, on a personal level, view me
and Jim Graham as your equals, if we are permitted the same rights and
responsibilities and obligations as our colleagues. ... So this is personal.
This is acknowledging our families as much as we acknowledge yours."
Barry responded by pointing out his support for gay rights since the 1970s.
"I understand this is personal to you and Mr. Graham. I understand because I
have been discriminated against. ... I resent Mr. Catania saying
either you are a bigot or against bigotry, as though this particular legislation
represents all of that. ...All hell is going to break lose. We may have a civil war.
The black community is just adamant against this."
Catania replied that he believed Barry's position was bigoted, but he
didn't think Barry himself was bigoted.
Over 100 black Christian clergy signed a letter to the mayor opposing
the resolution. 3
According to the Washington Post:
"After the vote, enraged African American ministers stormed the hallway
outside the council chambers and vowed that they will work to oust the members
who supported the bill, which was sponsored by Phil Mendelson (D-At Large). They
caused such an uproar that security officers and D.C. police were called in to
clear the hallway." 3
Some reactions to the Council's bill:
Some comments during and after the two votes:
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said that it was "gravely
concerned" about the resolution, and criticized the council for passing the
measure without hearings or public input. 3
Council Member Jack Evans, (D) used the "equality card." Referring to
marriage, he said:
"This is a right that should
be enjoyed by all of our citizens. Today is another major step toward the
ultimate goal of all of us living in a city and a country where everyone is
Joe Solmonese, president ofthe Human Rights Campaign, (HRC) the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
(LGBT) advocacy group, urged federal
lawmakers to not overturn the motion. Hesaid:
"We look forward to the final Council votes, and urge Mayor Fenty to sign this
common-sense legislation. We also hope that Congress will respect the
Council's votes and will respect the District of Columbia's choice to provide
equal recognition for couples who have legally entered into relationships in
Philip Pannell, a civic activist who is openly gay and lives in Barry's
ward called Barry's remarks offensive. He said that Barry:
"... of all people, coming out of the civil rights movement, should
understand the need to fight for the rights of all minorities to be protected"
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, a
fundamentalist Christian advocacy group, condemned the votes on APR-07 in both
Vermont and DC. CNN reported that Perkins said:
"Same-sex marriage is a movement driven by wealthy homosexual activists
and a liberal elite determined to destroy not only the institution of
marriage, but democracy as well. Time and again, we see when citizens have
the opportunity to vote at the ballot box, they consistently opt to support
"The radical left wants to destroy the traditional union of one man and one
woman across the country and they will not rest until they do so. The
marriage amendment movement has been many times more successful than the
same-sex marriage movement."
CNN followed the usual practice of religious conservatives by enclosing the
word marriage in "quotation marks." This is done in order to emphasize that
conservatives do not regard same-sex marriages as in any way equivalent to
opposite-sex marriages. However, the CNN article stated that Perkins "said"
these comments, so we assume that his speech did not include quotation marks.
It is common for religious and social conservatives to predict that same-sex
marriage would have negative consequences to what they call "traditional
marriages" -- marriages between one man and one woman. However, their belief may
be lacking in merit since the state with the lowest divorce rate in the U.S. is Massachusetts,
which was also the first U.S. state to make same-sex marriages available.
JAMA becomes law:
Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) authorized the resolution on MAY-06.
A Congressional subcommittee of the House then had 30 days to review the resolution
and either allow it or veto it.
No veto was imposed by Congress and the JAMA became effective on 2009-JUL-07.