The D.C. Council voted today 11 to 2 to give final approval to the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 [engrossed version]. The vote recognizing same-sex marriage was the second in two weeks for the Council, which approved the bill in an initial vote on December 1, 2009 by the same margin. Since last July, D.C. law has recognized marriages by same-sex couples from other jurisdictions, including foreign countries. The new legislation would permit same-sex couples to marry in D.C. itself while ensuring that clergy and religious organizations would not be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities or goods for the solemnization of a same-sex marriage. The legislation now goes to the desk of Mayor Fenty, who has said he will sign it. The law would take effect at the conclusion of the Congressional review period, which lasts for 30 legislative days following the Mayor’s signature.12/15/09 WordinEdgewise, by law professor John Culhane:
Expect marriage equality to be realized in D.C. by late January. We needed this boost to end the year, after stinging losses in Maine, New York, California (the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding Prop 8), and — let’s face it — New Jersey. Taking the year in full: Equality has expanded from one lonely state to six. Not bad. In fact, I’m elated.12/15/09 Volokh Conspiracy, by law professor Dale Carpenter:
Opponents have a few options at this point, but none of them seem likely to work in the near term ... If I’m right about the near-term prospects, marriage should be secure in the city ... D.C. will also be another test of the theory that, at least without expansive exemptions for religious objectors, there will significant erosion of religious liberty.My comment on the engrossed version:
A last-minute change affects a religious-liberty exemption. The change removes the implication that same-sex marriage has been expressly targeted for permitted religious discrimination. The amended language in this respect conforms to its counterpart in such marriage equality laws as New Hampshire's:
“Sec. 1283. EQUAL ACCESS TO MARRIAGE. –
. . .
“(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious society, or a nonprofit organization that is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, or goods for a purpose related to the solemnization or celebration of a
same-sexmarriage, or the promotion of same-sexmarriage through religious programs, counseling, courses, or retreats, that is in violation of the religious society’s beliefs. A refusal to provide services, accommodations, facilities, or goods in accordance with this subsection shall not create any civil claim or cause of action, or result in a District action to penalize or withhold benefits from the religious society or nonprofit organization that is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious society.”
12/15/09 NY Times:
“The City Council’s action today is not the final word,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and chairman of a group called Stand4MarriageDC.
Mr. Jackson said he would lobby Congress to intervene, but he acknowledged that such a move threatened to upset some of his local supporters, who may be put off by the prospect of subverting local autonomy in Washington.
The city’s Board of Elections and Ethics decided not to hold a referendum on the legalized same-sex marriage, and Mr. Jackson’s group is challenging that decision in court on Jan. 6. [See my post on the lawsuit. This article reports Council Member David Catania's latest comment on the lawsuit.]