1640 Rhode Island Avenue
Washington, DC 20036
phone 202 628 4160
fax 202 347 5323
MARRIAGE RECOGNITION IN THE
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
- The Mayor and members of the DC Council were elected by District voters and are answerable to them. Their positions, which in recent years have been overwhelmingly supportive of gay families, are a matter of public record and deal with public policy matters over which the citizens of the District of Columbia should have final say. We recognize that Congress has a special responsibility for the District under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. But Congress has also recognized DC citizens' equal stake in liberty and self-government by establishing a Home Rule charter for the District.
- Family law has traditionally been decided at the state rather than the federal level, in keeping with principles of federalism. Without a clear federal interest, there is no reason for Congress to intrude on the right of District voters to decide their own family law through their duly elected representatives.
- The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) guarantees states the right to establish their own policies on marriage, and explicitly permits them to decide for themselves whether or not to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. The US Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause has never been used to force a state to recognize an out-of-state marriage that would violate an established public policy of that state. 39 states have passed laws prohibiting same-sex marriages in their states. No court case has overturned any of them.
- Ten states plus the District of Columbia have not passed state DOMAs and resultantly may have legal grounds to honor marriages between same-sex couples from other jurisdictions. Those states are: CT, NH, NJ, NM, NY, MD, OR, RI, WI, and WY.
- The Attorneys General in states like New York and Rhode Island have already stated there is nothing in their respective state laws that would stop them from recognizing same-sex marriages performed legally in Massachusetts, and other states may do the same in the near future. Other states may choose not to recognize these marriages. The District of Columbia should have the same freedom as the fifty states to recognize those marriages for the purposes of providing local benefits to legally-married couples.
- According to the DC Code, there are 212 local rights, benefits and responsibilities associated with marriage that all married couples in DC are eligible for. Through DC's domestic partners program, which Congress allowed the city to implement in 2002, DC extended some of those protections, such as hospital visitation and medical decision making, to registered domestic partners. These protections are a matter of basic fairness and decency, and harm no one. Indeed, the harm would come by denying these protections to registered partners who are not permitted to marry.
- According to the Human Rights Campaign's analysis of data from the 2000 census, there are 3,678 same-sex partner households in the District of Columbia, which is a 66% increase from 1990. The District ranks first among the states in the percentage of coupled households that are gay or lesbian (5.14 percent). These families pay taxes, they are contributing members of their communities, and they deserve the same protections as their neighbors in other states.