House Bill Would Overturn D.C. Action on Same-Sex Marriage

Council member Phil Mendelson assailed the House bill.
Council member Phil Mendelson assailed the House bill. (James M. Thresher - Twp)
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By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, May 22, 2009

A group of lawmakers introduced a bill in the House of Representatives yesterday that would define marriage in the District as the union of one man and one woman.

The bill is designed to block a measure approved 12 to 1 by the D.C. Council two weeks ago to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states that have legalized gay marriage.

The lead sponsors of the D.C. Defense of Marriage Act are Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Dan Boren (D-Okla.). The bill has a total of 30 sponsors from both parties.

"The ideal institution for raising children is family; it is moms and dads," said Jordan yesterday at a Capitol Hill rally, where he was flanked by clergy members and other supporters. "We saw what happened in Iowa. We saw what happened in New Hampshire. And when the D.C. Council did this, this is the national city, this is the national capital of the greatest country in the world, and this is a fight worth getting into, defending that key institution."

Jordan was one of several members of Congress who spoke on the steps of the Cannon House Office Building at the rally, organized by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., senior pastor of Hope Christian Church and a leader of the Stand 4 Marriage coalition. The group has publicly opposed the D.C. Council vote May 5 to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

"This is America's capital city, and in some real way, D.C. belongs to all of America," Jackson said.

Although Jackson's church is in Beltsville, he said the effort to block the same-sex marriage bill is being waged by District residents. "I live here, vote here, the whole nine yards," he said.

Among the bill's sponsors are Reps. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), John Fleming (R-La.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Chaffetz is the ranking Republican on a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees the District.

If Congress takes no action on the council measure by July 6, it becomes law. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said Congress should not intervene in the council's decision. Some council members have said they expect to introduce legislation recognizing gay marriages performed in the District.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who sponsored the legislation on same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, accused the House members of intruding on states' rights.

"There would be an irony that Congress would step in and say one jurisdiction could not recognize legitimate marriages from other jurisdictions," he said. "That's what this bill does."

Jeffrey Richardson, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, a group that represents gay residents of the District, said he was not surprised at the congressional interference in District affairs.

"The disappointing thing," Richardson said, "is that here we are fighting to govern and pass our own laws in the District of Columbia, and Bishop Jackson chooses to run to Capitol Hill to stand with congressmen to impose their will upon the residents of the District of Columbia."

Staff writer Nikita Stewart contributed to this report.

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