Lambda Legal lauds capital’s leaders and residents for achieving marriage equality.
On March 3, Washington, D.C. made history by making applications for marriage licenses available to same-sex couples for the first time in the district. Routinely, marriages can begin after a waiting period of three business days. The first marriages are anticipated to take place March 9.
“Those who live in Washington, D.C. now will have the chance to wonder what all the fuss was about,” says Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Jennifer C. Pizer. “Allowing same-sex couples to marry doesn’t endanger or harm anyone else. Instead, all of society is strengthened when every family is accorded the same equal respect under law.”
City council member David Catania introduced D.C.’s marriage-equality bill last October. After emotional hearings, the council approved the measure overwhelmingly on two successive votes. Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the bill four days after the final vote in December. Congress, which had thirty legislative days to review the law, did not act to obstruct the new measure, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused an emergency request by antigay forces to halt the law.
“To the world, today an era of struggle ends for thousands of residents of Washington, D.C. who have been denied the fundamental right to marry the person of their choosing,” Fenty told the hundreds gathered at All Souls Unitarian Church, where he signed the bill. “I say to all those residents who watch the nation’s capital today that our city is taking a leap forward in ensuring freedom and equality to all residents.”
At the signing, Fenty drew a parallel between discrimination against same-sex couples and anti-miscegenation laws. He said his parents, an interracial couple (who were present at the signing) struggled with prejudice in the 1960s. “My parents know a little something about marriage equality,” he said.
The bill’s passage followed quickly on the milestone the district achieved in April 2009, when council members voted unanimously to honor same-sex couples’ marriages performed outside the capital. Progress in Washington, D.C. also reflects the momentum for marriage equality around the country following Lambda Legal’s historic legal victory in Iowa in April and subsequent legislative victories in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine (although Maine voters derailed marriage equality in that state through a voter referendum in November). With Massachusetts and Connecticut also having opened marriage to same-sex couples, six United States jurisdictions now permit lesbian and gay couples to marry and various others (such as New York and Maryland) respect married same-sex couples’ legal status conferred by other American and foreign governments.
“We call on elected and community leaders coast-to-coast to follow the principled example of the D.C. City Council and work to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in their states,” Pizer says.