June 15, 2008
Another marriage stonewall in D.C.
Posted by: Chris
As a candidate two years ago for mayor of Washington D.C., Adrian Fenty courted gay voters by in part promising he would release a long-shelved opinion by the District's attorney general on whether marriage licenses issued elsewhere to gay couples should be recognized in the nation's capital. Once elected, Fenty promptly reneged on his promise, egged on in doing so by a small kabal of old school gay "activists" frightened by their own shadow, who have long provided political cover for officials eager to do absolutely nothing on such a hot-button issue.
Now two years later, in time for California's gay marriage avalanche and for Capital Pride as well, Mayor Fenty is revisiting his abandoned campaign promise, assigning his own attorney general the task of reviewing and updating the legal opinion completed but never released by then-A.G. Robert Spagnoletti, who is gay:
I have asked the interim attorney general to review all developments since his predecessor's memo on this issue, including the California Supreme Court ruling. What he will do and when he will do it has not been determined, but he is looking thoroughly and wisely.
Like many gay residents of D.C., I long ago lost patience with the marriage of convenience between the city's toothless activist establishment and gutless political establishment and the foot-dragging to the alter that has resulted. At this pace, we can expect the District to recognize gay marriage at about the same time as the gay-friendly states of Mississippi and Alabama.
The difference, of course, is that the mayor and a majority of the D.C. Council are already on record favoring full marriage equality for gays, and the District's congressional overseers -- long the excuse for inaction -- are now Democrats pledged to respect local autonomy on the issue.
I am holding out some hope despite myself for the process set in place by Fenty because his interim A.G., Peter Nickles, is someone I worked with as a young lawyer about 10,000 years ago -- OK, 15 or 16 years ago. Nickles' gruff manner and intense work style made him probably the most intimidating partner at Covington & Burling, the D.C. firm where I first worked after law school.
But in my three years by his side, including some fun work for the National Football League, I was always very impressed by his intellect, his drive and, like many Covington partners, his distinguished pro bono record, especially on behalf of prisoners in the D.C. jail.
I don't remember ever discussing being gay with Nickles, even though I was out at the law firm, which was ahead of its time in those days in welcoming openly gay lawyers. But here's hoping my old boss Mr. Nickles will do his part to make gay civil rights history, reaffirming equality under the law for the District's gay and lesbian residents.
Regardless, it is looooong past time for Mayor Fenty and the D.C. Council to stop hiding behind legal opinions and live up to their campaign promises. Not only should the District recognize gay marriages from Massachusetts, California, Canada and elsewhere, but the city's laws should be changed so that gay couples can marry in Washington, D.C., itself.
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