DC's Same Sex Marriage Law Takes Effect

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 05, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The District of Columbia made a monumental move to legalize gay marriage. 

The Supreme Court declined to interfere with a new Washington D.C. law that allows same-sex couples to tie the knot. The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act came into effect on Wednesday, and expanded the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. As a result, same-sex couples in D.C. can now apply for a marriage license, after a waiting period of three business days.

Many couples were rejoicing in the District of Columbia, lining up at 6 in the morning outside a D.C. courthouse, as D.C. became the fifth U.S. jurisdiction to legalize gay marriage, joining the ranks of New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa and Massachusetts. By the end of the day, the D.C. Superior Court had given out approximately 150 marriage licenses to gay couples, in contrast with the average 10 marriage licenses per day. 

As expected, there are some bitter opponents to the new D.C. same-sex marriage law.  The charitable organization, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington decided to cut off health benefits for the spouses of new employees, claiming concern that the benefits could be used for gay couples. There were also some minor physical disruptions in the form of a tiny protest by four members of a Kansas church, who gathered outside the courthouse chanting and picketing.

The District of Columbia falls under the direct control of Congress. As a result, the local D.C. Council can pass laws, subject to the veto power of Congress. Although many religious groups requested the Supreme Court to appeal and issue a temporary injunction, Chief Justice Roberts declined to do so, issuing a 6-page opinion to that extent.

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