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    January 03, 2007

    Marry me in D.C. in 2007

    Posted by: Chris

    Washingtonmonument_1 My top New Year's resolution is to marry my partner in Washington, D.C., in 2007. I know, people say you should pick resolutions that are reasonably within reach. But marriage for gay couples in our nation's capital this year is, like so many other New Year's resolutions, mostly a matter of will power.

    When it comes to legal recognition for gay couples, the District of Columbia already ranks very high. Washington's "domestic partnerships" offer many of the same rights and responsibilities as marriage, including child support, alimony, inheritance, legal standing to sue for wrongful death, immunity from testimony against a partner, automatic power of attorney for financial, medical and legal matters, and more.

    Only marriage in Massachusetts; civil unions in Vermont, Connecticut and (now) New Jersey; and civil union-like domestic partnerships in California rank higher.

    Much of the focus on the next states that might ramp up to marriage has been on places like Maryland, D.C.'s next door neighbor, and California, which have high profile marriage lawsuits pending before their state supreme courts, as well as New York, where the new Democratic governor supports full marriage equality.

    Adrianfentydc But the political support in Washington is far more solid. Adrian Fenty, a Democrat sworn in as mayor on Jan. 2, is on record supporting full marriage, as did his predecessor.  So does a clear majority of the D.C. Council, which includes one openly gay Democrat and one openly gay Republican who turned independent in 2004 after President Bush pushed for a federal marriage amendment.

    Believe it or not, in Washington, D.C., of all places, the politicians aren't the problem. It's the gays — or more accurately, the local gay activists. Or to put it even more accurately, the few local and very vocal gay activists who make up the D.C. Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance.

    For the most part, GLAA's leaders (since it has almost no active membership, per se) are old-old school. They have a long track record of lobbying local politicians, and they do it very well. They are smart and effective, at least on the battles they choose to fight.

    But when it comes to marriage, GLAA's leaders have long suffered a failure of imagination and of courage. Their excuse has been the District's unique status in between that of a city and a state. Unlike other jurisdictions, the laws passed by the D.C. Council and signed by the mayor are subject to review by the Congress, which can effectively veto any law with which it disagrees.

    Up till now, GLAA has argued that a D.C. marriage law would be subject to a near-certain veto by the District's Republican overseers in Congress — or worse, Congress could pass legislation blocking D.C. from passing a marriage law, which means it would require another act of Congress down the road to reopen the door.

    But then came November, and the Republicans lost control of both houses of Congress. So surely now is the time, right? Not according to the final paragraphs of this Dec. 22 Washington Blade report:

    GLAA spokesperson Rick Rosendall said the group — which supports same-sex marriage in principle — wants local and national gay leaders to carefully assess when it would be prudent to bring up a gay marriage bill for D.C., even under the new, Democratic control of Congress.

    "It makes no sense strategically for us to dump on the Democrats' laps a marriage bill in the first year they came back after 12 years," Rosendall said. "The point is the numbers have not changed much."

    Instead, the "activists" in GL"A"A seem far more interested in finding new homes for the seedy strip clubs displaced by the city's new baseball stadium than they are in marriage. In fact, therein may lie the problem. GLAA's silver-haired leadership probably relates more to those who ventured in to the now defunct Glorious Health & Amusement Club (a.k.a. the Glory Hole) than young D.C. gay couples aching to marry.

    The arguments offered by Rosendall, the most intransigent of the GLAA bunch, make absolutely no sense. He counsels against any action this year, but next year is a presidential election year, which would be the worst possible time to try and push marriage legislation through.

    What's more, "the numbers" have in fact changed quite dramatically because in Congress, having the majority means everything. The Democrats now control the committees that oversee D.C. and can block any effort to veto a District marriage law. They don't have to support gay marriage to do so; they only have to support states' rights and D.C. home rule — longstanding planks in the Democratic Party platform.

    The Republicans have sucked all the air out of the gay marriage debate for three years now, claiming unelected "judicial activists" have decided the marriage question instead of "the people." In the District of Columbia, the people's elected representatives are ready to open up marriage for gay couples, a move that would be the first of its kind nationwide and enormously symbolic in our nation's capital — not to mention to those of us who are D.C. residents.

    If only the "elders" in GL"A"A would step out of the strip clubs long enough to stop giving the politicians the cover to do nothing.

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    Comments

    1. Alan on Jan 3, 2007 7:09:04 PM:

      Whereas I think you're being way too optimistic I will chalk it up tp being in love. I hope you are right and that those of us here in Florida get the chance to toast your nuptials via cyberspace in 2007.

    1. Robinev on Jan 3, 2007 11:06:23 PM:

      Great blog. And I generally agree with the post.

      But there's a nasty subtext running through much of this post. I see that you don't much like old people, do you? How many times did you have to backspace to take out the word "troll" as you typed this post?

      I hope that "GLAA's silver-haired leadership" doesn't get its way and that DC does get marriage equality this year.

      But I also send to you what may be a Chinese curse: "May you grow old some day."

    1. Citizen Crain on Jan 4, 2007 8:19:56 AM:

      I'll freely acknowledge, Robinev, the anger behind the harsh words I used for GLAA; perhaps too harsh. This issue is one that I have been debating with them for years now. By no means did the word "troll" enter my mind as I wrote that entry.

      But I will own up to this: It is a definite button-pusher for me when an older generation stifles the hopes and dreams of a younger generation with a paternalistic, daddy-knows-best attitude. It's one thing when I see it at work in the "Greatest Generation's" steadfast opposition to our equality, but it's another when that opposition comes within our community. And then to see GLAA turn its lobbying efforts toward something as marginally relevant as relocating seedy strip clubs…

      I still remember what the head of my college alumni association said about the pace of progress on our board of trustees. "Sometimes it takes a few good funerals to change things around here."

    1. Andoni on Jan 4, 2007 9:26:33 AM:

      I agree with your post 100%. However, as I was reading it, I kept wondering whether when you marry your partner in DC, will both of you physically be there…….or will you be there and he at the other end of the phone in Brazil saying “I do?”

      The reason I ask is that as I recall, you emigrated to Brazil because your partner cannot get a visa to come to the U.S.

      Now here’s a thought to get around those pesky immigration laws. Since your partner is Brazilian and the Brazilian Embassy in DC is technically sovereign Brazilian territory, can he parachute into the embassy? But then we have to figure out how to make the DC marriage law apply inside the embassy……..oh well.

      More seriously, do you plan on both of you physically being in DC for the wedding? Do you know something about the fate of UAFA that I don’t know?

    1. Citizen Crain on Jan 4, 2007 12:06:04 PM:

      You got me, Andoni. I don't have that part figured out. I'm not sure if the District's marriage law would require residence from both spouses (I doubt that, but it might be a compromise to lessen the likelihood Virginia legislators cry foul to Congress).

      Still, if D.C. has a marriage law, then a gay marriage in, say, Canada, which is doable, would certainly be recognized back in D.C. (though not for federal immigration purposes).

      FYI, GLAA is pushing for D.C. recognition of gay marriages and civil unions from other jurisdictions but (again, shame on them) only in the form of the District's existing D.P. law. So a validly married Massachusetts gay couple that moves to D.C. would only be D.P.'d in the District.

      Jim Graham, the out gay Dem on the D.C. Council, has long pushed the city to at least recognize gay marriages from other jurisdictions. And it's widely believed the previous mayor, Democrat Anthony Williams, withheld the release of a memo from his (gay) attorney general advising the same largely because gay "activists" like those at GL"A"A were afraid of angering congressional overseers.

    1. Andoni on Jan 4, 2007 5:51:10 PM:

      Actually, having so many different types of "unions" and rules governing recognition in new venues
      .. .i.e the rules are very complicated depending on where you got "hitched" and where you choose to move to after that, and what it's called in the new jurisdiction and what the benefits are, that the chaos could actually work to our advantage. People would very shortly figure out that the system is ridiculous and insist on some sort uniformity. Or maybe even say, "Hey, those Founding Fathers were very wise to insert the full faith and credit clause in the onstitution," because enforcing it would sure solve a lot of problems.

      So maybe we do need a lot of chaos and non uniformity before we get standardized language and benefits.

    1. Amy_in_Pgh on Jan 5, 2007 3:43:50 PM:

      I just left the district last summer and found the same problems you mention when trying to work with GLAA (and don't get me started on Cheryl Jacques brief tenure at HRC). I understand the home rule complications and how firm Congress could be should they really choose to use the District as an example in the upcoming election of progress made against gay marriage. But, as I argued after Lawrence v. Texas, if there was ever a time, the time is now, while it is fresh in the minds of voters, while it could get somewhat buried in a flurry of Dem activity (for the sake of the politicos) and while expanding rights seems to be a trend. If Congress had really wanted to, they could have put their foot down on domestic partnerships in the District. What better symbol of America's progress than a nation's capital where everyone can marry?

    1. Alan on Jan 5, 2007 10:22:51 PM:

      Since I have not been to DC since a junior high school field trip (other than fighting Beltway traffic passing through) I will yield to everyone else's opinions as to the conditions on the ground there.

      As an outsider I would like to ask whether DC could be overlooked as a battleground in this fight on purely racial (not racist) terms. Though the official political support may be there, DC remains overwhelmingly the "Chocolate City" and we are all aware that the African-American community, despite it's having been inordinately affected by the epidemic, was/is very slow to respond to the AIDS crisis amongst its members, that African-American ministers are amongst the most verbal in their condemnation of both same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general, and, finally, homosexuality is so looked down up by the majority of "mainstream" African-American men that the whole culture of the down low has evolved - a culture that will not rush to the altar or City Hall if that alternative is available.

      I do not raise these points in a racist attempt to disparage, and if I am wrong I hope someone will take the time to respond and educate me.

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    1. Mary on Apr 9, 2008 4:38:39 AM:

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    1. Mary on Apr 9, 2008 4:39:00 AM:

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      Later come and search for suitable profiles. We are going to promote this new service heavily so millions will login to the site all will see your profile free. So act now and visit the site to register now.

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