Today was a big day for the gay community in DC and WLDC Flickr Pool contributor Erin M. was there to capture the moment. I’m happy for the couples and realize that they’re the point of this whole business, but I find the counter protesters facing off against Westboro Baptist Church to be particularly hilarious. I’m of two minds on this: I feel that counter protesting gives Westboro exactly the attention that they want. On the other hand, I love when people stand up to hate groups. Either way, I really enjoy some of the counter-protest signs. See them in the slide show after the break. Continue reading
Despite referendums and protests, today DC became the 10th jurisdiction in the US to recognize gay marriage. In May, the City Council passed legislation amending DC code to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed outside of the District. This legislation passed the requisite 30 day review by Congress and today, officially became law. This marks a major victory for gay-rights advocates and sets the city well on the path to full same sex marriage legalization .
It was just over two weeks ago that the DCBOEE announced that the efforts to put forth a referendum on the matter would violate the city’s human rights act provisions. Kirk provided us with some analysis of the situation and just a few days later the referendum backers took the matter to court. Unless the backers of the referendum find some grounds to appeal this decision this might be the end of this measure.
More significantly, unless the referrendum backers get a higher court to issue an injunction staying any action till further appeal, this provision will likely take effect – and same-sex marriages performed and recognized in other states will be recognized by the District – by next Tuesday, July 6th.
WAPO reports that the authors of the recent Gay Marriage Referendum are taking their cause to court, asking judges to overturn the Board of Elections and Ethics’ Monday decision to block the proposal. The Board ruled that the Referendum, designed to annul the City Council’s decision to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, was in violation of the city’s Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Board stated that the proposal would extend or deny rights to legally married couples based strictly on their sexual orientation, thereby making it illegal. The Plaintiffs argue that Dean v. District, a 1995 court case which ruled the denying marriage to same-sex couples did not violate the HRA, validates their proposal. An expedited hearing has been requested.
Did the Board of Elections and Ethics kill the gay marriage debate in DC by ruling against “The Referendum Concerning the Jury and Marriage Amendment Act?” Hardly. It codified DC’s position on defining marriage and headed off the marriage-opponents’ major strategy, but it didn’t come near to ending the debate. After unpacking the Board’s reasoning and looking at where the ruling leaves both sides, the battle lines are still in basically the same place. No legal answer was given as to whether or not DC will be the next area to legalize gay marriage.
I realize that in saying this, I appear to be back-pedaling. In my my previous post on this subject, I said that a referendum was the best shot that marriage opponents had at having their way. In saying that, I was not referring to what ended up before the board. At the time, it appeared the the referendum would be a comprehensive, Prop 8 type piece of legislation. Instead, the referendum proffered was designed to prevent the city from recognizing legal, same sex marriages performed in other states and countries.
As a follow-up to Tom’s Daily Feed and my Feature: WaPo reports that the DC Board of Elections has set a June 10 date for a hearing on the proposed marriage referendum that was filed earlier this week. The Board is said to be expediting the application process in order to give pro-referendum groups enough time to collect signatures, if the item is approved. They will have only until early July to get the requisite 21,000 signatures for their item to be put on the ballot.
Proposition 8 is not a strictly Californian issue. It is an initiative of national consequence and its underlying strategic principles are redefining the same-sex marriage debate in DC. To restate the obvious, the results of the Prop 8 vote flew in the face of political convention. The population of a relatively liberal and historically gay-friendly state voted for a heterosexual definition of marriage. To many, it signaled a break between popular ideology and the viewpoints of elected officials.
The result of the Prop 8, along with the passage of similar ballot initiatives in Florida and Arizona, has lead many gay marriage opponents to believe that they’ve found their adversaries’ Achilles’ heel: when put to the question, populations will vote against legalizing homosexual marriage. With momentum in DC gathering for legalization, this idea has already begun manifesting itself. As Tom reported this morning, a group called “Stand 4 Marriage D.C.” has applied for a marriage definition referendum with the Board of Elections. If the application is approved, they will need to collect over 20,000 signatures to have it placed on the ballot next year.