D.C. Law Permitting Same-Sex Marriages Takes Effect

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brad Luna 202/216.1514
Trevor Thomas 202/216.1547

D.C. Law Permitting Same-Sex Marriages Takes Effect

Nation’s Capital is Sixth U.S. Jurisdiction to Permit Same-Sex Couples to Marry

WASHINGTON - The
Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, issued the following
statement after a new law in the District of Columbia permitting
same-sex marriages became effective today.

 
"This
law is an important step towards equal dignity, equal respect and equal
rights for all residents of our nation's capital," said HRC President
Joe Solmonese.  "Starting today, same-sex couples in D.C. will be able
to enjoy all the rights and responsibilities that come with civil
marriage.  At the same time, the law also preserves the right of clergy
and congregations to adhere to their faith traditions.  Today
represents a hard-fought victory for D.C. residents and a poignant
reminder - here in the home of our federal government and most
cherished national monuments  - of the historic progress being made
towards ensuring equality for all across the nation."
 

"Congratulations
to the D.C. Council, Mayor Fenty and the many advocates of equality in
our community who worked hard for marriage equality in D.C. and who
will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that these basic rights are
protected in the future," Solmonese added.  "As the courts have
uniformly recognized in upholding D.C.'s broad anti-discrimination
laws, no one should have to have their marriages - or any of their
civil rights - put to a public vote."

 
Rev.
Nathan Harris, pastor of Lincoln Congregational Temple, United Church
of Christ, and member of D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality,
praised the new law.  "Today is a historic day in our community for
social justice and inclusion in keeping with the proudest traditions of
our religious heritage," said Harris.  "For too long it has been unjust
to deny same-sex couples the opportunity to consecrate their
relationships in the same way in which we allow opposite-sex couples. 
Our coalition of nearly 200 D.C. clergy believe that marriage equality
fulfills our commitment to God's love and justice.  Nevertheless, we
respect our friends who hold different views and are pleased that
today's law embraces our nation's strongest traditions of religious
freedom."

 
On
December 15, 2009, the D.C. Council overwhelmingly passed the Religious
Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Act of 2009.  The bill was signed
by Mayor Adrian Fenty and transmitted to Congress for review.  Marriage
equality opponents attempted to stop the legislation from taking effect
by proposing a referendum.  However, the D.C. Board of Elections and
Ethics ruled last month - for the third time on the marriage issue -
that the proposed ballot measure would violate the D.C. Human Rights
Act and therefore was not a proper subject matter for the referendum
process.  A D.C. Superior Court judge recently denied opponents'
request for a preliminary injunction to stay the legislation, which
followed two previous court rulings rejecting opponents' efforts for a
referendum or initiative on similar grounds.  The D.C. Court of Appeals
and the U.S. Supreme Court denied opponents' emergency appeals. 
 
The
law took effect today, at the conclusion of the mandatory 30-day
Congressional review period.  During this period, Representative Jason
Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Senator Robert Bennett (R-Utah) introduced
legislation that would have halted implementation of the new law.  Both
bills attracted only minimal support and did not move through their
respective chambers.  Opponents of marriage equality continue to pursue
a ballot initiative defining marriage between a man and a woman - and
in the wake of several legal defeats have appealed to the D.C. high
court.  The Court of Appeals has said it plans to hear oral arguments
on whether the initiative can go forward in May 2010.

 
Under
a law enacted last June, same-sex couples living in D.C. who were
legally married elsewhere were recognized as married in D.C. and
received the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage.  Pursuant
to the new law, same-sex couples may now enter into civil marriages in
D.C.  The law ensures that clergy and religious organizations are not
required to provide services, accommodations, facilities or goods for
the solemnization of a same-sex marriage.
 
At
this time, besides D.C., five states permit marriage for same-sex
couples under state law: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and
New Hampshire. Five states-California, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington,
and Nevada-provide same-sex couples with access to the state level
benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions
or domestic partnerships.
 

Colorado,
Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island and Wisconsin provide same-sex
couples with limited rights and benefits. New York recognizes marriages
of same-sex couples validly entered into outside of the jurisdiction,
and just last week the Maryland Attorney General issued an opinion that
the state may start recognizing out-of-jurisdiction same-sex marriages.

 

California
recognized marriages by same-sex couples between June and November of
2008, before voters approved Proposition 8, which purports to amend the
state constitution to prohibit marriage equality. Couples married
during that window remain married under California law, but all other
same-sex couples can only receive a domestic partnership within the
state. The state will recognize out of state same-sex marriages that
occurred before November 5, 2008 as marriages and those that occurred
on or after November 5, 2008 as domestic partnerships. The Prop. 8 vote
has been challenged in federal court; testimony recently concluded in a
trial in San Francisco.
 

Same-sex
couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state or
D.C. For an electronic map showing where marriage equality stands in
the states, please visit: www.HRC.org/State_Laws.
 

 

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The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of over 750,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

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