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  • Man–Woman Marriage in the District of Columbia: The Debate Is Not Over

    The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that has had the effect of blocking an initiative or referendum vote on same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia.

    The high court’s action brings to an end this judicial phase of the effort to rescind a same-sex marriage law enacted by the D.C. city council in 2009. The law took effect in March 2010 and has never been enjoined by a court of law. As a result, same-sex marriages have been taking place in D.C. for nearly a year.

    The basic issue in the case was the scope of the D.C. government’s authority to shield certain enactments from the city’s initiative and referendum process. That process was created under amendments Congress approved to the city’s Home Rule Charter in 1978 that authorized the city council to hold initiatives, referenda, and recall votes by the city’s voters, and it excluded only one type of legislation from being subject to these votes—measures that would appropriate funds from the public treasury. Nonetheless, in 1979, the city council passed a bill that excluded measures that would affect the city’s nondiscrimination laws from public votes.

    Those laws are largely embodied in the city’s Human Rights Act, which has roots in the civil rights debates of the mid-20th century. When the city council created same-sex marriage in 2009, it included this provision in the Human Rights Act and then argued—successfully, as it turns out—that it had the power to block any referendum on the new law. The D.C. board of elections agreed with this view, as did the D.C. Court of Appeals in a 5-4 vote in January 2010.

    Proponents of traditional marriage argue that, except for appropriations, the legislative power in the nation’s capital is concurrently held by the council and by the people. The city council is both free to enact same-sex marriage and to repeal it, and therefore the people have the same right under the terms Congress set for initiatives and referenda.

    With the decision by the Supreme Court, some are saying the debate over same-sex marriage is over in the District. But the city remains a federal enclave subject to Congress’s ultimate authority. At the very least, Congress is free to disagree with the city and the lower courts’ view that the Human Rights Act is an appropriate place to secrete laws the people might not support. In 2009, Congress let the new same-sex marriage law go into effect, but Congress’s ultimate constitutional authority over the District allows it to change its mind at any time. It could insist, by various means, that D.C. recognize the concurrent legislative authority of the people and schedule a vote on same-sex marriage.

    Council members who support same-sex marriage argue rhetorically that human rights should never be put to a vote. But whether a right to marry a person of the same sex actually exists, or is in the public interest, is exactly the issue at stake. Expansive notions of human rights are contentious topics, as a Member of Congress recently illustrated by arguing that a vote to repeal Obamacare would violate the U.S. Constitution.

    Council members who support same-sex marriage are likely also aware that every other U.S. jurisdiction that has held popular votes on the issue has rejected same-sex marriage. Having said that, the District is one of the nation’s most liberal jurisdictions, and a vote there offers proponents of same-sex marriage a chance to show that they do indeed have popular support for their cause.

    While the U.S. Supreme Court does not generally reveal its rationale for declining to hear a case, in this instance it’s obvious that legislative routes to address this intense dispute remain open for exploration. The High Court has left the future of marriage in the nation’s capital exclusively within the hands of elected representatives in the council and in Congress, though it is no longer in the hands of the people to take it upon themselves to vote.

    Marriage is a cornerstone institution of civil society. That is reason enough to hope that its future will continue to be the subject of debates and votes in a city whose monuments stand for both our essential foundations and our deepest aspirations.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    16 Responses to Man–Woman Marriage in the District of Columbia: The Debate Is Not Over

    1. Philip says:

      This article is factually incorrect, and I suspect it was on purpose. The City's Human Rights Act was enacted by the voters, not the Council. The voters agreed that discriminatory laws should not be put to a popular vote. Additionally, if the voters feel that is no longer the case, they can simply vote to repeal the Human Rights Act, and proceed with voting away the rights of gays and lesbians. Of course, this is never going to happen, because the people of DC understand that removing the protection of the Human Rights Act would leave everyone vulnerable to discriminatory laws, not just gays and lesbians. It's only fun to vote on other people's rights if it doesn't affect you.

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    3. Bobbie says:

      "and proceed with voting away the rights for gays and lesbians?"

      so we aren't equal? gays and lesbians get rights to reflect they're gays and lesbians? That sounds so pathetic! Infantile…

      Marriage is an act that consists of the balance of genders. One man, one woman. Lets move on and get it straight..

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    5. Gabriel says:


      Once again, everything is one-sided with you.

      Let me ask you just one question…

      What gives hetrosexual couples the rights to marry and receive all the joint filing and federal benefits that come with marriage, but not the rights to homosexual couples?

    6. Al from Fl says:

      These days, it seems, anything that someone wants to have that can't be gotten via an approval vote of the people is argued to be a human right. Human rights have become that which is deemed to be by the far left, no matter how juvenile or moronic the argument. Gay marriage and abortion are not human rights, the latter considered a violation of human rights by some (and illegal by all americans prior to Roe v Wade) and the former is hardly the subject of human rights but an attempt to redefine marriage.

    7. Bobbie says:

      Wrong once again, Gabriel. Homosexuality has been around since man's existence. Marriage was established later. All of a sudden homosexuals in the 20th century start screaming they want to get married to have benefits and distort the meaning of a foundation? Screams intolerance.

    8. Bobbie says:

      Oh, to answer your question, the definition of marriage and their ability as man and woman to procreate.

    9. Gabriel says:


      Why do you wish to take away the rights of other people? Can they take away your rights? Can I?

    10. Bobbie says:

      What rights, Gabriel? Be specific. Do you know the difference between rights and freedom? I didn't think so. What rights is Bobbie taking from people, sweetie? Where is your evidence, what is your proof? Are you okay? Should I call a government program because you've been weakened by truth? Are you gonna make it?

    11. Gabriel says:


      I will provide another example of how you answer questions when asked…

      you asked- "What rights, Gabriel? Be specific"

      Here is my answer- joint filing, legal will, joint tax returns, visiting your spouse in the hospital, and all federal benefits that come with a legal marriage, in some cases adoption. Would you like a full list? I can provide that. A civil union does not provide those rights. Can I take away your federal benefits? So freedom to you is taking away the rights of homosexuals just because you disagree with what they do based on your religion? I also assume you do not believe in the seperation of church in state. Why do you not care about our founding fathers constitutuion. Why do you wish to take away things from people that are not yours? That's sad.

      not sure what the rest of you comment is about. Try and stick to the debate. Will you answer a single question? waiting…

    12. Bobbie says:

      It needs to remain a states matter.

      Those aren't rights, Gabriel, they're benefits to people that choose to get married under it's definition. So you don't know the difference between rights and freedom or rights and benefits. What rights are being taken away, Gabriel? Be specific. Try to stick to the debate with some intellect.

    13. Gabriel says:

      Even if joint filing, legal will, joint tax returns, visiting your spouse in the hospital, and all federal benefits that come with a legal marriage, in some cases adoption are only benefits, where is a single document that has ever been produced since the begininng of time, aside from the BIBLE that tells us that those benefits in marriage is strictly between a man and a woman?

      "What rights are being taken away, Gabriel? Be specific" -how about the right to Marry. Getting married is a right. It is a right and freedom of choice to marry whoever, wherever and whenever you want depending on age and citizenship, nevertheless, it is a right. Can i take away all of your federal benefits? Are you married? Can you start paying higher taxes by stripping your joint tax benefits? Would that be a problem for you?

      Will you answer this question….Now that you have admitted that many benefits are given to married couples, why are you against those same benefits to same-sex couples? What gives you the right to take away their right to marry? The bible alone? Your religious beliefs alone? Do you not believe in the first ammendment?

      What gives you the right to take away other peoples right to marry and the benefits that come with marriage? Do you wish to expell marriage all together?

      I have noticed in your comments that you steal statements that I have alreay used such as "be specific". Where in any comment have you offered any evidence or specifics to anything? You cant just repeat statements that I have already used, it makes your argument look even worse then it already is.

    14. Bobbie says:


      I know, double standard one, settle down, I know.

      Don't play dumb with the traditional meaning but who distorted the definition of marriage were you taught? What makes you so ignorant? Your quest to impose your sexual preference? Oh gee, we have sex this way so we ought to get married! ignorant. Lets draw mass attention so everyone will know we have sex with our own and we should get married just to gett all the marriage benefits. sad how weak the intolerant are…

      The true meaning of marriage doesn't hold sex to be of great importance like the gay man does, ignorant one! NO RIGHTS have been taken away. And nobody is stopping you from getting married. Anybody who qualifies can adopt, marriage isn't even a factor.

      You are simply intolerant of a definition as you insist on imposing your sexual preference into it. I'm not going to answer your redundant questions. You refuse to understand and that leaves you a pest and pathetic. No defamation, because that's what you are. All the evidence is on this blog site.

    15. Judy says:

      Traditional biblical marriage is the bed-rock and foundation of our society and should remain so without Left-wing activists who, though a minority, are shouting louder, about trying to change the definition and destroy it, but their loud shouting is most often and has been for years, a tactic of the Left to silence true conservatives.

      I am tall. Just because I am tall, does that mean I should get special hiring privileges and benefits over people who are short or slim versus fat?

      The Left's "logic" is illogical.

    16. Judy, Georgia says:

      The loud shouts from Left-wing activists has always been a tactic to silence true conservatives.

      Traditional Marriage between a man and a woman is not only biblically institued in Genesis and backed up by Romans 1, but is and has been the bedrock of our society for generations, yet now is suddenly to be thrown in the trash heap?

      I am tall, but should I get special hiring privileges over someone who is short in the work place as well as special benefits?

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