Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), has said that he supports “100 percent” House conservatives taking up a bill to ban gay marriage in D.C. after the Supreme Court declined without comment a lawsuit to compel the District to hold a referendum on the law.
Jordan told The Hill, “I think RSC will push for it, and I’m certainly strongly for it. I don’t know if we’ve made a decision if I’ll do it or let another member do it, but I’m 100 percent for it.”
Jordan was a lead sponsor on the D.C. Defense of Marriage Act in the previous Congress, but the measure only garnered 53 cosponsors. It is expected that the bill will gain more support this year in the Republican controlled House of Representatives, but how much remains to be seen.
However, D.C. Democrats have categorically stated that they will resist any attempts by Congress to intervene on this matter, with D.C.’s nonvoting delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) telling The Washington Post that she and fellow D.C. officials will be meeting with the Legislature to dissuade them from intervening, adding, “No self-respecting resident of the District of Columbia would ever want to ask the Congress of the United States to overturn local laws, any more than any Baltimorean or Virginian would ask the Congress to overturn local law.”
Marriage equality opponents including the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and a Maryland minister named Harry R. Jackson Jr. have been riled by the fact that, due to D.C.’s 1977 Human Rights Act, marriage equality legislation that was passed by D.C.’s City Council and signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty in December 2009 cannot be subject to a referendum as this would potentially allow for a change in the law that would codify discrimination, something that the Human Rights Act prohibits.
The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics made the original decision to deny a referendum and upheld that decision upon appeal. This was then challenged and narrowly upheld by the D.C. Court of Appeals by 5 votes to 4. Still, marriage equality opponents vowed to push the fight in Congress and to have the law blocked during the 30-day congressional review period.
At the time, Congress failed to intervene, which led to marriage equality opponents petitioning the Supreme Court—ultimately unsuccessfully. With the judicial road now closed to them, Congress would seem the only option for gay marriage opponents.
However, while the move may garner more support in the House of Representatives, there is no guarantee that a bill would pass. Furthermore, it is even more likely that the U.S. Senate’s Democratic majority will oppose the attempt, and near certain that President Obama would veto the bill in the unlikely event that it would reach his desk, suggesting that this is a costly political effort not intended for success but rather to appease certain anti-gay rights organizations.