Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage Proposed for D.C. | The Hoya

Same-Sex Marriage Proposed for D.C. | The Hoya

By Anna Salinas | Sep 23 2008
Same-sex marriage could be legalized in D.C. as early as this coming spring if Democrats gain more Congressional seats in November, according to activists and insiders at City Hall.

City Council members David Catania (I-At Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) are reportedly set to present a same-sex marriage bill to the rest of the Council in January of next year.

“We want a sense of consensus within the various stake-holders,” Graham said. “This is the right thing to do.” He added that he thinks voters are ready for the bill.

Though the proposal has already gained open support from D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and 10 of the 13 Council members, according to the Washington Blade, there is still a possibility that Congress will overturn the bill if it passes through the Council. The likelihood of Congress’ approval depends on the extent to which the Democrats can expand their majority in the House and Senate in November and also on whether or not California defeats Proposition Eight, which seeks to reverse the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“It’s a great thing for D.C. to have equality for all couples,” Adam Feiler (SFS ’09), president of the GU College Democrats, said.

Nevertheless, he noted that the issue of Congressional approval is likely to pose a serious challenge.
D.C. election laws hold that citizens can overturn a bill, even after it has been approved by the Council, if they attain enough signatures to place an initiative on the ballot.

A recent report by the Williams Institute estimates that there are 3,359 same-sex couples in D.C., and states that if marriages were legalized, 1,680 said they would marry in the first three years.

This is not the first time the District has considered recognizing the right of same-sex couples.

1n 1995, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that gay marriages could not be performed in D.C.

In April 2005, former D.C. Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti told The Washington Post that “validly married same-sex couples” may file joint tax returns in the District, though the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prohibits same-sex couples from filling joint federal income taxes.

The article also reported that former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams was warned at the time by leading Senate Republicans that any new legislation recognizing the rights of same-sex couples would put the District’s budget, which requires Congressional approval every year, in jeopardy.

“The symbolism of a city standing up and saying, ‘We want marriage equality,’ is significant in lot of ways,” GUPride Freshman Representative Tyler Bilbo (COL ’12) said.

“It certainly could have influenced this,” he said, referring to San Francisco’s legalization of same-sex marriage by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004. “It instilled a lot of hope among the gay and lesbian community.”

Bilbo said he would like to see GUPride collaborate with local activists from the LGBTQ groups in D.C. if the bill gains momentum once it is officially presented next year.

“It’s a modern issue, and it’s something people think about,” GU College Republicans President Ellen Dargie (COL ’10) said.

She added that the College Republicans will not be doing any work for the bill nor against the bill. “I think that’s up to the Council and up to the people,” she said.

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