Guest Blogger

5 reasons why same-sex marriage in D.C. would be huge

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 14, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement

Editor's Note: Guest blogger Michael A. Jones blogs about LGBT issues for He is the Communications Director for the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, and previously was Communications Director for Pax Christi USA, a progressive Catholic human rights organization.

Washington, D.C.'s City Council is moving one step closer to making the District the next locale in the U.S. to recognize marriage equality. City Council member David Catania -- himself openly gay -- has a bill ready to be introduced, and he's saying that he's got 10 council members willing to sign on as co-sponsors. At that number, the bill has enough support to all but assure its passage.

The bill's language would be simple and clear in its support for marriage equality. The bill would provide for a law in D.C. that says "marriage is the legally recognized union of two people," and "any person who otherwise meets the eligibility requirements ... may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender."

Marriage in D.C. would be huge, and certainly add one more victory for LGBT rights in 2009. Here are our five reasons why it would be good news for gay rights if same-sex marriage becomes the law of the District.

  1. The first marriage equality decision south of the Mason-Dixon. So far, six states (plus California for a brief period of time, before Prop 8) have enacted marriage equality. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. With the exception of Iowa, all of those states are in New England. So, having D.C. on board the marriage equality bus adds a little more regional diversity to this list of progressive states.
  2. Impact on Maryland. There are certainly efforts in Maryland to push marriage equality forward. Their state's Attorney General is set to issue an opinion as to whether Maryland should recognize out-of-state gay marriages, and several prominent legislators have come out in favor of marriage equality. A victory in D.C. could spell a later victory in Maryland.
  3. Hitting the opposition right in their seat. Earlier this year, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) moved their headquarters to D.C. in an effort to stop marriage equality in the District, and to be closer to Congress where, presumably, they hope to fight like hell against efforts to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Think of how disarming it will be to see a group so dedicated to discrimination be surrounded by equality?
  4. It's bound to get Congress talking. Given that D.C. is the seat of the federal government, same-sex marriage in the District is bound to get all politicos talking. And that's a good thing. Maybe if a few timid legislators see that marriage equality has no impact (or, rather, positive impact) on families, kids or straight marriage, they might be a little more comfortable going back to their own districts and taking a stand on equal rights. Perhaps that's a bit of a pipe dream, but we've seen hearts and minds change on this issue before. There's no reason to think they won't change again.
  5. The tune of $52.2 million. The Williams Institute at UCLA says that extending marriage equality benefits to same-sex couples in D.C. will inject more than $52 million into the District's economy -- generating increases in local government tax and fee revenues by $5.4 million and create approximately 700 new jobs. That's pretty damn massive, especially in the midst of a recession. The argument that gay marriage is good economic policy is a bit cynical, but in this case, it's hard to ignore how much money same-sex marriage could bring to the D.C. region.

(Photo courtesy of M.V. Jantzen's photostream on Flickr.)

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I strongly agree, as a resident of Maryland, so close to the district. My partner became my husband in Massachusetts, the day following our thirty-first anniversary. I believe that a victory in DC would be a major step forward for the marriage movement.