Washington, D.C., seems to have its finger on the pulse of the hot-button issues of our era. First the District caused the Supreme Court to give a definitive ruling on firearms rights and a concrete definition of the Second Amendment. Now, the D.C. City Council is challenging Congress to take up the issue of same-sex marriage by enacting legislation to recognize other states’ same-sex marriage licenses.
A simple recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states and not in the District, has caused an aura of storm and stress within D.C. There’s a catch. At the present moment, Congress can’t do much about states like New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Iowa that have legalized same-sex marriage. But as I have fought to assert in the past, and whether people like it or not, Congress in this case can do as it pleases since it possesses legislative oversight for D.C.
The Home Rule Act of 1973 strikes again. The District, to the chagrin of many, is not a state. Before the recognition of same-sex marriage takes effect, Congress has a review period. The federal body has every legal right to either approve or reject any and all legislation that is enacted by the D.C. City Council and signed by the mayor. Even if such legislation in D.C. were enacted through a ballot initiative – say, akin to California’s Proposition 8 – Congress would still have the ability to exercise its oversight.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from the state of Utah, has vowed to hold out like the Alamo, fighting to see this recognition legislation overturned. However, chances are that with such a blue Congress, a blockage of legislation will not be viable. But almost as importantly, D.C.’s marriage recognition throws the issue of same-sex marriage back into the news cycle along with President Barack Obama’s anti-abortion hecklers in South Bend, Ind. Support of D.C.’s legislation could prove to be the most important part of the situation. It would mark Congress as in favor of same-sex marriage, for better or for worse. It could help provide cohesion for the fundamentalists of the Republican Party.
A Congressional challenge, on the other hand, could provide interesting nuggets for the D.C. home front with regards to statehood. The same-sex marriage recognition legislation has been staunchly opposed by many of D.C.’s religious leaders, by one City Council member and a number of activists against same-sex marriage. They would be more than happy to see Chaffetz succeed in his crusade to halt the legislation through the Congressional review process. If these community leaders rush to Congress to lobby for an interdiction, then they will lend a vast amount of credibility to Congress’ continued authority over the District. If these D.C. residents recognize Congress’ power of oversight as a legitimate course of democratic action, then how can they go on to fight against it in the future?
There is a very real possibility that D.C. is about to open the floodgate on same-sex marriage by a simple piece of legislation recognizing – not even granting – same-sex marriage. Now the question is, how far will those flood waters reach?
The writer, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.
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