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DC marriage equality and federal efforts to repeal it

Marriage equality

By Adam Bink

Yesterday’s Washington Post reported that House Republicans support moving to block DC’s law allowing same-sex couples to marry, but no one is interested in stepping up to take the lead:

If same-sex marriage in the District is “under attack,” it’s not clear who is leading the charge. Neither the chairmen of the committees that oversee D.C. issues nor the Republicans who previously offered such measures are planning to do so now, although the fight could surface in the appropriations process later this year.

In the last Congress, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced separate bills on the subject: The former would have defined marriage in the District as “the union of one man and one woman,” while the latter would have prevented the city from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the issue had been brought to a referendum.

The bills got 64 and 30 co-sponsors, respectively, but never came to a vote in a chamber then controlled by Democrats. Neither has been reintroduced this year.

Jordan, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told The Hill newspaper in January, “I think RSC will push for [a ban], and I’m certainly strongly for it,” but he didn’t specify who would head the effort. Asked on Thursday, Jordan said he still wasn’t sure who would offer legislation.

Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.) was the lead Democratic sponsor of Jordan’s bill. Now, according to a spokesman, Boren “doesn’t plan on being involved with that bill in this Congress as he is busy working on other legislative initiatives.”

Chaffetz previously served as the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that handles D.C. issues. But he has moved on to another committee assignment and is not focused on the District’s marriage law, according to a spokeswoman.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said he knew of no campaign to repeal the law. “My committee has no intention at this time of overturning gay marriage,” Issa said this month, although he later clarified that he was speaking for himself as chairman and not for individual lawmakers.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), now chairman of the D.C. oversight subcommittee, responded similarly Tuesday. He said that he would support a bill to overturn the same-sex marriage law if one were introduced but that he had no interest in spearheading such an effort.

“I was not elected to be D.C. mayor, and I don’t aspire to be,” Gowdy said, echoing a previous comment by him on local issues.

The fact that no Republican has introduced a bill this year could be a sign that the majority plans to use a different tactic.

“They can’t get a stand-alone bill through both houses of Congress,” Norton predicted. “We’re expecting that they will try to use the appropriations process.”

The appropriations process was and is the most oft-used process by House Republicans in the 1990s, last decade and this decade for interfering in the city’s affairs. In fact, the current DC Mayor, Vincent Gray, was recently arrested for protesting the most recent riders attached to appropriations bills. It remains to be seen whether another effort on marriage is in the works, but I don’t doubt a lot of leading Republicans are working on it. And so we’re still in wait-and-see mode.

NOM’s Brian Brown doesn’t disagree:

But Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said House Republicans and other same-sex marriage opponents have simply been preoccupied with the court battle over the Defense of Marriage Act. (House Republican leaders have sought to defend the measure in court after the Obama administration decided to stop doing so.)

And while the District law might not be on the front burner, Brown said it would be soon.

“I expect that there will be some vote,” he said. “I don’t know what form it’s going to take.”


  • 1. John B.  |  May 30, 2011 at 3:08 am

    I live in Washington, DC and here's the problem for NOM: any activity on repealing DC's marriage equality legislation–which was passed by an overwhelming majority of the DC Council–will draw attention to the fact that they and the other outsiders like Bishop Harry Jackson failed spectacularly to make same-sex marriage a political issue here, failed to influence public opinion, and failed to influence our elections in any way. They keep saying "let the people vote" but conveniently overlook the fact that we DID vote when we elected a DC council and mayor who are strong supporters of same-sex marriage. Polls show that a strong majority of DC voters support same-sex marriage and in the elections after the marriage legislation, not one DC council member who had voted for the legislation lost in the primaries or in the general election. (NOM's one best candidate was trounced by the incumbent in the primary election; in fact it's possible NOM's support actually hurt that candidate.)

    Despite their efforts, Harry Jackson, NOM, and their allies failed all the way to the Supreme Court and the only way they could affect us now is to go behind our backs and around our elected legislative body (DC Council), our laws, and our courts by having Congress interfere directly. But not only would this draw attention to their failures here, but it would also show that they have no concern whatsoever for the the principle of DC home rule, DC law, the legislative process, or the will of DC's voters as expressed very clearly by our elections.

  • 2. Straight Ally #3008  |  May 30, 2011 at 5:10 am

    State and local rights, right, social conservatives?

  • 3. Sagesse  |  May 30, 2011 at 5:39 am

    @John B #1.

    Congress and the White House in general are very conscious of protecting home rule for DC. It is very sensitive for Congress, which is only level of government that 'oversees' DC, to be overruling the elected city government in ways that no other city has to put up with. On the other hand, there is a class of Republicans that has this overwhelming need to tell people what to do (we all know the ones) and they use appropriations bills to control out-of-control DC when it abuses its right to self government… by self-governing. If the House tried stand alone legislation they'd be flayed.

    Meddling worked much too well for them with the most recent budget bill.

  • 4. vibram five fingers  |  May 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    You blog is so lovely that speak the words right out my month. . I bookmarkt you so that we can talk about it in details, I really can’t help myself but have to leave a comment,you are so good.

  • 5. DaveP  |  May 30, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    …. It looks like the spammers are back at it again (see #4 above – I have not clicked on the name so I don't know what that link is, but I would not recommend doing so).

  • 6. book in tracy  |  May 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Think we need a 'Report as …' for #4

  • 7. Sagesse  |  May 30, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Prop 8 Supporters: We Didn’t Really Mean What We Said About Same-Sex Marriage

  • 8. Mouse  |  June 1, 2011 at 2:19 am

    I visited friends in DC last year. As I told them at the time, partly this was because I wanted to reward DC for supporting equality.

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