Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Judge Prohibits D.C. Marriage Referendum

Following the D.C. Council’s passage of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that opponents to same-sex marriage do not have the right to hold a referendum to determine the legality of same-sex marriage in the District.

The judge’s decision could bring same-sex marriage advocates one step closer to achieving their goals.

The D.C. Council passed the bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the District in two consecutive votes in early December. Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the bill in a ceremony on Dec. 18. The bill is before Congress for a passive review period of 30 legislative days, according to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). The bill is projected to become law in early March if Congress does not block the bill.

According to a press release from Norton’s office, Norton hopes to see the bill progress through the 30-day review period until it is passed.

“The Congresswoman has already done the initial work to close the gates on overturning the Religious Freedom and Civil Rights Equality Amendment,” Norton’s office stated in a press release.

Norton announced a countdown to the day when same-sex couples may apply for marriage licenses in the District. If the bill evades any protest from Congress during the countdown period and is ultimately passed, the landmark will contribute to Norton’s goal of securing greater legislative autonomy for D.C., according to Norton’s office. She said in the release that the District legislation would ideally not face congressional review.

“This bill should not be on the Hill at all,” Norton said in the release. “Home rule is all, or it is nothing. We can’t pick and choose when Congress can intervene without signaling to Congress to intervene at will. No matter how controversial, matters decided in the District must remain in the District.”

In the case, the plaintiffs sued the District’s Board of Elections and Ethics for not putting an initiative on the ballot that would have defined marriage as between a man and woman, according to The Associated Press.

Despite the ruling, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), claiming the U.S. Constitution does not permit the District to pass this type of legislation, has said that he will introduce a congressional resolution in favor of the plaintiffs.

Chaffetz, a ranking member of a congressional subcommittee that has oversight responsibilities for the District, is opposing the bill both on moral grounds and because he claims the D.C. council exceeded the limits of its authority. The District may pass only functional or operational legislation, according to a senior Republican aide working on the issue.

“Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution actually requires the United States Congress to have jurisdiction over all legislation in Washington, D.C.,” Chaffetz said in an interview with KCPW, a Salt Lake City radio station. “It’s our constitutional responsibility to affirm or take down a piece of legislation that is passed in Washington, D.C.”

“[Chaffetz] is not seeking to [create] an initiative or referendum. He is seeking to prevent the [D.C.] Council from unconstitutional power that it was not given in the home rule act,” the aide said. “When they failed to respond to a legitimate and lawful request from their citizens [for a referendum], they’ve gone too far. That exceeds their authority.” “

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