Update to GLAA members on marriage fight in D.C.
Related Links

Married D.C. Gay Couples Can File Taxes Jointly (The Washington Post) 04/20/05

GLAA urges WETA to stop appeasing anti-gay right 02/23/05

GLAA Statement on Domestic Partnership Equality Act of 2005, Bill 16-52 01/31/05

For Redder, for Bluer (Colbert I. King, The Washington Post) 02/19/05

Marriage in the March of Time (Colbert I. King) 02/12/05

A Test for Tolerance (Colbert I. King) 01/01/05

Open letter: Preparing to oppose an anti-gay ballot initiative 12/19/04

GLAA opposes proposed anti-gay D.C. marriage initiative 11/10/04

GLAA Celebrates Expansion of the District of Columbia Domestic Partnership Law 09/21/04

Talking points for meetings with members of Congress 05/16/04

Rosendall Speaks at Rally Against Marriage Discrimination 03/03/04

DC Council unanimously introduces anti-FMA resolution 03/02/04

GLAA Report: Marriage Law in the District of Columbia 02/09/04

GLAA on marriage and families

GLAA is a Lambda Rising Affiliate! Click here and we'll get a commission on every item you purchase.

Update to GLAA members on marriage fight in D.C.

"What Councilmember Graham was pushing all last year for the District to do, and what Ed Horvath and Richard Neidich want the D.C. Government to do, is the political equivalent of sailing down the Potomac River on a flaming barge."

From: "Rick Rosendall"
To: equal@glaa.org
Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2005 8:26 AM
Subject: Update to members on marriage fight in D.C.


This morning's Washington Post reported the following: "Mayoral spokesman Vincent Morris said Williams is reviewing with city lawyers the [D.C. tax] filing of Edward G. Horvath and Richard G. Neidich, D.C. residents and federal workers who said they have been a couple for 25 years."

In an April 18 email that GLAA has obtained, D.C. Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti wrote (apparently in response to Councilmember Jim Graham, who subsequently forwarded the exchange to the Washington Post) that "validly married same-sex couples may file a joint DC Form 40." In an April 14 email to Ed Horvath, Spagnoletti's chief of staff, Pamela Satterfield, wrote: "Same-sex married spouses may file a joint DC Form 40 if they hold a good-faith belief that they are a validly married couple under the laws of Massachusetts. The Office of Tax and Revenue reserves the authority to review the return for its legal validity under DC law upon receipt of the return in order to determine whether DC will accord recognition to the out-of-state marriage. This review may include proof of marriage, including date and place of the marriage."

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post told me that Spagnoletti did not appear to have consulted the Mayor before sending out that email. Lori pointed out that the New York Times had also gotten wind of it.

I am interrupting preparations for this evening's GLAA anniversary reception to draft this update to our members because, while I spoke at length to Ms. Montgomery yesterday for today's Post article, GLAA's position and the reasons for it were not sufficiently spelled out in the story.

As I told Ms. Montgomery, while GLAA strongly favors equal civil marriage rights -- and indeed have been the leading organizers on that subject here in the District -- D.C. has a special relationship with Congress that Massachusetts and California do not. That relationship, and the right-wing control of Congress, means that we are not going to have equal marriage rights in the District any time soon.

If the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue decides to accept the joint filing by Horvath and his partner, it will almost certainly be jumped on by anti-gay forces in Congress. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a right-wing senator with ambitions for higher office, was recently appointed chair of a critical Senate subcommittee, and is likely to cause serious problems for the District. In this regard, a brief, feel-good gesture like the District accepting joint tax filings by same-sex couples could result in a setback for gay families if Congress overturns D.C. domestic partnerships or blocks their implementation as it did for ten years after our original domestic partners bill was passed in 1992.

GLAA strongly supports equal civil marriage rights, but does not support pushing for it in D.C. at present due to the political situation. We must stress that we are as painfully aware as anyone of how unjust and undemocratic that situation is. But unlike those who are grandstanding on this issue or leading with their hearts instead of their heads, we feel compelled as responsible activists to approach the goal of equality by starting from where we are. This requires us to deal with the District's relationship with Congress. In the meantime, GLAA is continuing our efforts for registered domestic partners in line with President Bush's statement that he has no problem with (states) pushing for non-marriage alternatives.

GLAA's leadership on the marriage issue has included the following:

In short, GLAA's credentials on defending equal rights for gay citizens, and civil marriage rights in particular, are second to none. But since we want to achieve actual advances rather than indulge feel-good gestures that will actually set our community back, we have to pursue our agenda with a strategy that soberly takes into account the District's constitutional relationship with Congress and the powerful anti-gay forces at work there. What Councilmember Graham was pushing all last year for the District to do, and what Ed Horvath and Richard Neidich want the D.C. Government to do, is the political equivalent of sailing down the Potomac River on a flaming barge. This we cannot and will not support, even if the Washington Blade resumes the attacks and insults against GLAA that it engaged in last year.

GLAA's alternative to pushing for marriage now is not to cower or to hide under a rock for the next decade, but to continue pushing for incremental gains for registered domestic partners. The gains we have already achieved, such as the ability of District citizens to add their domestic partners to their deeds without facing a heavy tax penalty, are very real benefits that we would risk losing by adopting an all-or-nothing stance or demanding full marriage now and damn the consequences.

The lack of equal marriage rights is not a mere abstraction for me. I am in love with a man whom I would like to marry, whom I met in Cape Town in 2001, and whom I cannot even get a visa to visit this country. I have to travel overseas to spend time with him. There is no one more outraged at the present injustice than I, or more committed to changing things.

As it happens, we only have a bare majority of D.C. Councilmembers on record at present in support of our equal marriage rights. It is not enough to make demands of our public officials. There is significant retail political work to be done by all of us if we are to reach our goal of equality. This includes education efforts; conversations with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and civic and religious leaders; development of and support for gay-friendly candidates; lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill; development, advancement, and careful timing of legislation. As to the short-cut of lawsuits favored by some, we must remind people of what resulted from the Dean & Gill marriage case in the early 1990s: an adverse court ruling. Before we can savor the fruits of the harvest, we must plant the seeds, cultivate the crops, and protect them. It is hard work that requires a long-term effort. We are not going to get there right away. And because of our unique constitutional relationship with Congress, we in the District are not in a position to be at the leading edge of the fight for equal civil marriage rights nationally. This is frustrating, of course, but it is the case. Pretending otherwise will only set our cause back and lead to the loss of hard-won gains for gay families in the District.


Rick Rosendall
Vice President for Political Affairs
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.