GOP Senators Seek to Bring D.C. Gay Marriage to a Vote

Posted February 3, 2010 at 3:09pm

Updated: 6:09 p.m.

Several Republican lawmakers, led by Sen. Bob Bennett (Utah), introduced a bill on Tuesday to stop D.C. from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until residents have had a chance to vote on it.

In December, the D.C. Council voted to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the issue was not opened up to the public.

“The definition of marriage affects every person, and should be debated openly, lawfully and democratically,” Bennett said in a statement. “The board’s decision to deny the people of Washington, D.C. a vote was incorrect and reminiscent of the judicial activism that has imposed gay marriage by fiat and stimulated such discord in other venues.”

The bill is being touted not as anti-gay-marriage, but rather as a way of letting the people of D.C. have their say. The move is not surprising, considering that many GOP Members indicated in December they would fight the legislation if it passed.

Bennett’s bill is similar to a House bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Chaffetz said in December that Republicans could “try to strike funding or use some other creative way to address the issue.”

The original bill allowing gay marriage in the District is in its 30-day review phase. Unless Bennett’s bill is passed, the city is scheduled to begin issuing licenses in March. If it is passed, the D.C. Council will have to schedule a vote and will not be able to distribute licenses until after that takes place.

The GOP Senators co-sponsoring Bennett’s bill include Orrin Hatch (Utah), John Cornyn (Texas), Sam Brownback (Kan.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Roger Wicker (Miss.), David Vitter (La.) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.).

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) expressed confidence that neither the House nor Senate bills would be successful.

“Opponents will not succeed in Congress because the Democratic majority in the House and Senate exercise principled respect for the District’s home rule right to determine its own local laws for its residents,” she said in a statement. “Marriage is a fundamental right in the District, as elsewhere in America, not a political football to be used or abused to score points back home at the expense of the people of the District, and of democratic principles.”