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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Washington, DC

"JAMA" resolution to recognize
SSMs made elsewhere. Reactions.

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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 not be 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 District." 4

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 pastors.

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. He said:

"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

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Some reactions to the Council's bill:

Some comments during and after the two votes:

bulletThe 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
bulletCouncil 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 treated equally."

bullet Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, (HRC) the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group, urged federal lawmakers to not overturn the motion. He said:

"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 other jurisdictions."

bulletPhilip 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"

bulletTony 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 traditional marriage."

"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. 2

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.

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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. 

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The story continues

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Edward Stein, "What Changed in Five Days: Gay Marriage in Iowa, Vermont and the Rest of the Country," The Huffington Post, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  2. Ed. Hornick, "Same-sex marriage rights a step closer in District of Columbia," 2009-APR-09, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  3. "D.C. council votes to recognize same-sex marriage, draws adamant opposition from black community," Catholic News Agency, 2009-MAY-07, at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/
  4. "Memorandum Opinion and Order," District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics, 2009-JUN-15, at: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/This is a PDF file.

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

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Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posting: 2009-APR-10
Latest update: 2009-DEC-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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