The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined a challenge brought against D.C.’s 10-month-old gay marriage law which has upset anti-gay marriage groups who argue that the District council’s refusal to allow a public vote on same-sex marriage violates their rights.
This will likely mark a shift in how the law is challenged, with those opposed to gay marriage now looking for Congress to intervene.
From The Washington Post:
“This represents the end of the judicial road for opponents,” said D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), the author of the city’s same-sex marriage law. “They have a political remedy that I suspect they will pursue.”
Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, one of the organizations that had asked the Supreme Court to consider the case, said he and fellow activists will “look at what the best route is” to have Congress intervene to try to force a referendum.
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, could not be subject to a referendum as this would potentially allow for a change in the law that would codify discrimination, something that the District’s 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. However, a move for congressional action may be more successful this time given that the House is now under Republican control. Of key concern will be those lawmakers charged with District oversight.
More from The Washington Post:
But a new Republican majority in the House has gay-marriage supporters concerned about new attacks – most likely through “riders,” or restrictions placed on city spending during the appropriations process.
Two members of Congress with key roles in District oversight – Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), chairwoman of an appropriations subcommittee, and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), named Tuesday as chairman of an oversight subcommittee – declined requests to comment.
Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting delegate, said she and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) plan to meet next week with Emerson and Gowdy to deliver a “hands-off” message. She also called on District residents to refrain from lobbying the Hill for intervention.
“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,” she said.
One could be cautiously optimistic that, with a slim Democratic majority in the Senate, a move to overturn the law would be discarded by the upper chamber. Also, as pointed out above, if gay marriage opponents press for congressional action, the discourse could be elevated to a larger discussion of D.C.’s self governance, a contentious topic and one that would not be invoked lightly.
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