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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Washington, DC

More reactions to the city
council's first SSM resolution.

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Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) authorized the "JAMA" resolution on 2009-MAY-06. It provides that loving, committing same-sex couples in the District of Columbia (DC) who have been legally married in other jurisdictions will have their marriages recognized in DC.

bulletRod Dreher, a conservative blogger at Beliefnet.com is personally opposed to marriage equality for both loving, committed same-sex and opposite-sex couples, However, he said that the same-sex legislation in Vermont and DC show the democratic process at work. He said:

"Vermont just got it the right way: democratically, through legislative action. A social experiment as radical as same-sex marriage should not be attempted without democratic consensus.

Although Vermont's legislation was initially vetoed by the Republican governor, the veto was overridden by a more than 2/3rds vote in both the House and Senate.

Dreher speculates that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately to rule on same-sex marriages and believes that that the court will most likely find them constitutional. He continues:

"And that being the case, it might be better for my side if it gets done sooner rather than later. If done sooner, there might still be enough backlash left in the American people to get a constitutional amendment passed erecting a high barrier or protection around religious institutions."

Dreher's comment reflects a common fear of religious and social conservatives that clergy will eventually be prosecuted on human rights charges for refusing to marry same-sex couples. Some clergy have historically refused to marry certain couples because of their age, immaturity, race, religious affiliation, presence of disability, and probably other grounds. None to our knowledge has ever been prosecuted for this refusal in the past. But many conservatives feel that same-sex couples will launch lawsuits against non-cooperating clergy if SSM were to become generally available.

There are also concerns that:
bulletChurches will be be charged with human rights violation for not allowing same-sex married couples to hold their receptions in church halls.
bulletWedding photographers who supply a service to the general public might be charged if they refuse to take photos at a same-sex wedding.
bulletOther service companies will also be charged.

bulletAndrew Sullivan, an openly gay conservative blogger on The Atlantic's web site, said that the first vote by the Council is:

"... enough reason to celebrate. I have a chance to be legally married in the place I live for eight months of the year. Now, just think for a minute how many heterosexuals have ever asked themselves this question -- even immigrating to foreign countries, let alone moving from one state to another. This is enough for me right now."

With an obvious reference to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sullivan concluded:

"It has been such a long journey, but we can see the mountaintop now." 1

bulletComment by Barrett Duke: He is the vice president for public policy for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention --  a fundamentalist Christian denomination. He described the council vote as:

"deeply disappointing. ... The D.C. council has decided to join the handful of states who believe that marriage can mean anything they want it to mean. This is a sad day for the families and children of the District of Columbia. Now the U.S. Congress will have to decide whether or not to let this deplorable decision stand. Soon, the nation will know just exactly where their elected representatives stand on the same-sex marriage question."

Webmaster's comment:

Actually, American states and territories have been defining marriage as "anything they want it to mean" for centuries. Prior to 1958, inter-racial couples were not allowed to marry in some states. A century earlier, African American couples were not allowed to marry in some areas of the country. Also through much of the 19th century, one man could legally marry multiple women in Utah Territory; even today, the practice of polygyny in Utah and other states with a large Mormon population is widespread and largely ignored by the state.

We suspect that Duke is wrong on the happiness factor. I expect that it will be a very happy day indeed for same-sex couples and their children in Washington DC. They will have the option of being recognized as ordinary married couples.

bulletEd Stein: Stein commented on legislative and court activity across the U.S. during a five day interval in early 2009-APR. The legislature in Vermont, the Supreme Court in Iowa, and the city council in Washington DC all approved the recognition of same-sex marriage in their jurisdiction, He wrote in the Huffington Post -- a liberal news source:

"Vermont, Iowa, and D.C. show that we have reason to be optimistic even after the voters of California took away full marriage equality only a few months after it was awarded. Although I suspect the California Supreme Court will uphold the constitutionality of Prop. 8 (while not invalidating the gay marriages legally performed during that brief period), in the coming months, the legislatures of Hawaii, Rhode Island, New York and New Hampshire may well enact same-sex marriage laws."

"Regardless, there will continue to be a patchwork of recognition and non-recognition of same-sex relationships across the land. Further, no matter where in the U.S. you live, if you are in a same-sex relationship, because of [the federal] DOMA, you won't get any of the [approximately 1,050] federal benefits of marriage. And, even if DOMA is repealed, there will still be patchwork, because so many states have constitutional amendments that refuse recognition to same-sex marriages or other forms of legally-recognized same-sex relationships."

"It has been an exciting week for same-sex marriage. I expect some more good news in the next several months, but I also expect some setbacks. For now, advocates of legal recognition for same-sex relationships should adopt a nuanced state-by-state strategy, pushing for full marriage equality in some states, civil unions in others, and limited recognition in the rest." 2

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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. Ed. Hornick, "Same-sex marriage rights a step closer in District of Columbia," 2009-APR-09, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  2. 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/
  3. Mike DeBonis, "D.C. Gay Marriage Referendum Rejected by Elections Board," Washington City Paper, 2009-JUN-15, at:  http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/

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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-MAY-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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