D.C. To Start Recognizing Gay Marriages

By Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor, CQ Researcher
      The District of Columbia will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Wednesday (March 3) following Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s rejection of petitions by gay marriage opponents to block the measure from going into effect.
      Roberts issued a three-page opinion late Tuesday afternoon denying the request for a stay on the ground that District of Columbia courts had rejected the opponents’ request for a referendum on the law and that Congress had not exercised its option to block the law under D.C.’s limited home law.
      Roberts also noted that opponents can still pursue an initiative to overturn the law once it goes into effect. Based on those considerations, Roberts said the full court was unlikely to agree to review the case, Jackson v. District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics.
      D.C. officials are expecting a rush of hundreds of same-sex couples to seek marriage licenses when government offices open Wednesday morning. D.C. law prescribes a three-day waiting period before couples can actually marry.
      The city council passed a law to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples on Dec. 2 by a vote of 11-2. Opponents sought a referendum to block the law, but the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled that under the District’s charter laws affecting civil rights are not subject to voter disapproval.
      The District will join five states in recognizing same-sex marriages: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa and New Hampshire. California briefly recognized gay marriages under a decision by the state’s supreme court in May 2008, but the ruling was overturned by the state’s voters in November.
      For background, see Kenneth Jost, “Gay Marriage Showdowns,” CQ Researcher, Sept. 26, 2008.