DC Marriage equality has steps left to go

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘David Michael Morris’

DC’s local government is getting a lot of attention today because of the marriage equality vote. #DC4M is a trending topic on twitter and a lot of people are making statements like this one: “DC legalizes gay marriage.”

There’s reason for gay marriage supporters to celebrate, but this is not yet a done deal.

Locals know this, but those of you coming to us from a distance probably don’t: if you’re a resident of one of the fifty states, you share your congressional representation with DC. The difference is that you get to vote them in and out of office, where DC residents just have to live with their meddling.

After the DC council passes a bill and the mayor signs it, both houses of congress get an opportunity to pass a joint resolution disapproving of that act, which the president may opt to sign. If they do so then it doesn’t matter what kind of self-governing actions DC tried to take – it gets thwarted.

You can read about how this happens on the DC Council’s website, but the important thing to realize is that this isn’t a done deal yet: congress can still decide that DC doesn’t get to make its own decisions. The lay of the land currently doesn’t make it look like this is going to happen, but it does mean that this cannot be called done and gay marriage cannot be said to be legal in DC yet.

Section 602-10(c) of the Home Rule Act spells it out:

such act shall take effect upon the expiration of the 30-calendar-day period (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, and any day on which neither House is in session because of an adjournment sine die, a recess of more than three days, or an adjournment of more than three days) beginning on the day such act is transmitted by the Chairman to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate

Congress is spending a lot of time in session trying to get health care through and will likely be in session at least a few days this year after the council sends them this act. However it’s not law till they have 30 working days to think about it.

So enjoy the moment and celebrate – this is a big deal vote. But there isn’t yet marriage equality in the District.

Well I used to say something in my profile about not quite being a “tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy” but Tom stole that for our about us page, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to express that I am a man of many interests.

Hmm, guess I just did.

My tastes run the gamut from sophomoric to Shakespeare and in my “professional” life I’ve sold things, served beer, written software, and carried heavy objects… sometimes at the same place. It’s that range of loves and activities that makes it so easy for me to love DC – we’ve got it all.


8 thoughts on “DC Marriage equality has steps left to go

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  2. Congress almost never exercises its option of blocking DC legislation that way. In fact, I believe it never has under the current rules.

    Instead it passes separate legislation or attachments amendments to the DC appropriations bill overriding DC laws or preventing the DC government from spending money for certain purposes. If Congress decides to intervene, it’ll probably be by doing something like that, perhaps by forcing DC to take the issue to the ballot, as they did some years back with the death penalty.

  3. The act will be sent to them once Fenty signs it, which he is expected to do “before Christmas”. So potentially, the 30 day clock may not start ticking until after the holiday recess.

  4. That’s true, KCinDC, but I mostly wanted to take a moment to illuminate this quirk for people who may not be aware of it. If nothing else it’s significant to folks who are talking about this as if the vote and the mayor’s signature mark the date this legislation becomes active.

  5. KCinDC comment is very informative. Thanks! While I appreciate the procedural information that Don provided, I would be interested in learning more of this “indirect” way to interfere with DC laws because it seems that it’s not a “done deal” even after the 30 day review period (possibly never a “done deal” because presumably Congress can screw with appropriations at some point down the road when Republicans have more power).

    Can Congress force the DC government to put gay marriage up to a referendum — like the death penalty example cited that I didn’t know about — even though DC considers such referendums to be illegal (which is why these referendums have so far been blocked)? Can they limit appropriations so narrowly as to withhold funding for the processing / issuance of only same-sex marriage without affecting “traditional” marriage licenses? Beyond appropriations and referendum’s, what else can Congress do?

    Perhaps something for a follow-up or separate post.

  6. Eric, Congress can do pretty much anything it likes with DC. Federal law takes precedence over DC law, and Congress can amend the DC charter if they need to. Hell, Congress could abolish the entire DC government, which was only established in 1974, and repeal all of DC’s laws.

  7. Pardon the DC denizens!

    Each and every DC denizen has, based on no other evidence than their mere residence in the District, been convicted, in advance, centuries ago, without trial or due process, of disloyalty, incorrigible duplicity, and self dealing, verging on treason. For such crimes against their country, each has been sentenced in perpetuity, by having their otherwise inalienable rights, as citizens and free persons, to consent to the manner in which they are governed, permanently and irrevocably extinguished. Their only recourse from this fate is to submit to self-imposed exile from the District.

    This is “Constitutional”.