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Utah Republicans Fight Gay Marriage In D.C.

February 4, 2010 - by Eric Naing

A group of Republicans in the House and Senate are racing against the clock to prevent gays and lesbians from getting legally married in the nation’s capitol.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty signed a bill last December legalizing same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia after the city council twice approved the measure. According to the District of Columbia charter, Congress has 30 days to block it with a resolution.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz [R, UT-3]
was the first to try. Chaffertz last month introduced a resolution (H.J.Res.72) disapproving of the same-sex marriage bill. The measure, however, is facing long odds as Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton [D, DC-0], D.C.’s sole non-voting representative, has received assurances that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will reject it.

House Democrats have telegraphed their intention to not interfere with the laws in the District of Columbia. In May, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] said, “I don’t think the Congress should intervene there in terms of their recognition of marriages in the states that allow them.”

After the 30-day waiting period, same-sex marriage could be legal in the District as early as March.

Over in the Senate, Sen. Bob Bennett [R, UT] and a coalition of southern and western Senate Republicans are trying a different tactic. This week they introduced a bill (S.2980) preventing D.C. from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples unless a referendum, similar to Proposition 8 in California, on gay marriage is first held in the in the District. The House version of the bill (H.R.4430) was introduced by Rep. Chaffertz.

Rep. Norton is working to oppose both bills and is confident they won’t make it through Congress:

House, and now Senate Members of Congress, are trying to overturn same-sex marriage legislation in the District of Columbia, although it does not, in any way, affect their state or any Americans except our own residents. Opponents will not succeed in Congress because the Democratic majority in the House and Senate exercise principled respect for the District’s home rule right to determine its own local laws for its residents. Marriage is a fundamental right in the District, as elsewhere in America, not a political football to be used or abused to score points back home at the expense of the people of the District, and of democratic principles.

Two previous efforts to hold referendums in D.C. over gay marriage were struck down by the District of Columbia Board of Elections and the D.C. Superior Court on the basis that such a referendum would violate Washington’s Human Rights Act.

Sen. Bennett hopes his legislation can overturn those decisions:

The definition of marriage affects every person, and should be debated openly, lawfully, and democratically. The board’s decision to deny the people of Washington, D.C. a vote was incorrect and reminiscent of the judicial activism that has imposed gay marriage by fiat and stimulated such discord in other venues. Congress should act to ensure that the question is settled by a democratic ballot initiative process.

According Rep. Norton’s office, there are 16 legislative days left to try and block the D.C. same-sex marriage bill.

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