DC Council gives preliminary approval to same-sex marriage legislation

[JURIST] The Council of the District of Columbia [official website] voted Tuesday in favor of a law that would allow same-sex marriages to be performed in Washington, DC. The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 [text, PDF] passed with a vote of 11-2, despite opposition from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington [organization website], which has pledged to end social services [JURIST report] if the bill becomes law. To become law, first the bill must pass another vote by the Council at least two weeks later, which is tentatively scheduled for December 15 [Washington Post report]. DC Mayor Adrian Fenty [official profile] has promised to sign the bill [AP report], after which the US Congress would have 30 days to veto it under the Home Rule Act [text, PDF]. If Congress fails to act, the bill will then become law at the expiration of that time. Council members Marion Barry and Yvette Alexander [official profiles] cast the dissenting votes. Before casting his vote, Barry stated: "I stand here today to express, in no uncertain terms, my strong commitment to the gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgender community on almost every issue except this one."

Last month, the District of Columbia Board of Election and Ethics [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the Jury and Marriage Act (JAMA) [text, PDF], which allows DC to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other jurisdictions, could not be challenged by a ballot initiative because overturning the law would violate the DC Human Rights Act [text]. In July, JAMA took effect [JURIST report] after congressional inaction. If the marriage bill becomes law, DC will become the sixth US jurisdiction to recognize marriage between same-sex couples, after voters in Maine rejected a similar bill [JURIST report] that had passed the state legislature. Similar legislative initiatives were successful in New Hampshire and Vermont [JURIST reports]. Legislation to the same end was passed [JURIST report] by the New York State Assembly in May, but has since stalled in the state senate. In April, the Iowa Supreme Court overturned that state's ban on same-sex marriage, following the supreme courts of Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts [JURIST reports]. Last November, California voters approved Proposition 8 [JURIST report], amending the California constitution to exclude same-sex couples from marriage and effectively overriding the ruling of the high court.

 

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