Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who in early January announced a 30-day legislative countdown to when same-sex marriages in the District are legalized, discounted a recent congressional challenge to the city’s Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equity Amendment Act.
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, (R-Utah), introduced a resolution to block the legislation. But, in a recent statement, Norton expressed optimism that the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, on which she serves, will give Chaffetz’s measure to overturn the District’s new ordinance allowing same-sex marriage a thumbs down – just as it does other anti-home rule legislation.
“I am pleased that this resolution will not be taken up by the committee,” the lawmaker said in a statement released last week.
Because the District is not a state, all its bills must go to Capitol Hill for a 30-day review. Norton’s countdown began Jan. 5 after the Congress reconvened from its winter break and ends this week.
However, her office reported that she has already taken the first steps to close the gates on attempts to overturn the equity amendment, which she has deemed “a home rule human rights issue for the District of Columbia alone to determine.”
Norton has been a longtime advocate for human and civil rights for the gay and lesbian community and the countdown is just one part of her 2010 thrust for a vigorous expansion of home rule in the District – including her ongoing efforts to secure legislative autonomy to allow the city the right to pass its own laws without the Congress’s intervention.
“This bill should not be on the Hill at all [as] home rule is all or it is nothing,” Norton said. “We can’t pick and choose when Congress can intervene without signaling to Congress to intervene at will,” she continued. “No matter how controversial, matters decided in the District must remain in the District.”
But Chaffetz has since stated in published reports that the District’s gay marriage ordinance is more symbolic than realistic. He also predicted that Democratic leaders would not allow the issue to come to vote.
"I wish it would come up for a vote, because I think traditional marriage would win,” Chaffetz was quoted as saying Jan. 28 on the online blog, Gay Marriage Watch. “But with the Democrats controlling the House, the Senate and the presidency, I can't imagine that this would make it through the process.”
The District is more than 50 percent African American and heavily dominated by a legion of Black churches. However, the Black community has been traditionally opposed to gay unions, believing it leads to destruction of traditional marriage, family and related Christian values. Therefore, when the complex issue made its way there last spring, it was met with fierce opposition.
But the community’s views were quickly overshadowed late last year when the City Council voted in favor of same-sex marriages and the bill was signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty.