Matt Raymond has a great letter in this week's Washington Blade:
To the Editors: Re: “Thousands turn out for Capital Pride” (news, June 15)
Though you might have missed it, there was a watershed event last week for gay rights in America when the Massachusetts Legislature plunged a dagger into the heart of efforts to overturn same-sex marriage. For the first time anywhere in our nation, true marriage equality is now on rock-solid legal footing.
Just a day later, the Washington Blade published its lead story on the Capital Pride parade. Out of all the “proud” images the Blade could have chosen to accompany the article, however, it ran a picture of Mayor Adrian Fenty, who “walked the entire route of the parade” throwing out strands of plastic beads. Fair enough.
What went unwritten, however, was the fact that marriage equality in the District of Columbia still remains stubbornly in neutral and that Mayor Fenty himself can help shift the car into drive.
In 2004, D.C.’s attorney general at the time, Robert Spagnoletti, drafted a memo that reportedly opined that the District of Columbia must recognize same-sex marriages that had been legally performed in Massachusetts (and any other state), under the Constitution’s full-faith-and-credit clause. Unfortunately, then-Mayor Anthony Williams sat on the opinion for the remainder of his term and its contents since then have been only grist for rumor.
Fast forward to 2006: When Fenty was running for his current post, according to the Blade, he promised to release the Spagnoletti memo “immediately” after becoming mayor. So far his promise remains unfulfilled.
So why the delay? If Fenty is reversing course, voters deserve to know why.
Some have suggested that such pro-gay moves in the District would incur the wrath of congressional overseers. But that tired argument has even less salience than it used to, when set against the backdrop of the new Democratic-controlled Congress.
The D.C. City Council has already begun asserting itself on other issues, such as needle-exchange programs, at which Congress previously balked. How nice for the drug addicts. But it irks me that gays, once again, have to dine on table scraps after being promised prime rib.
Maybe the answer is as simple as the apathy that tends to accompany landslide electoral victories, or maybe it’s the seemingly intractable cycle of pro-gay rhetoric from candidates before elections and the stiff-arm after.
And if you’re expecting some of your national gay rights groups to hold Fenty’s feet to the fire, don’t hold your breath. The bipartisan-in-name-only Human Rights Campaign, under President Joe Solomonese, has stated baldly that it now wants to function as an adjunct of the Democratic Party, like a labor union. How nice for the Democrats.
Same-sex marriage in the District is in a confusing state of limbo at a time when other states are legalizing gay unions or moving to recognize those conferred by other jurisdictions.
My partner and I were legally married two years ago in Massachusetts. Later this year we will return to live in the District after a brief exile in Northern Virginia. It would be nice for us and many other couples if we knew before relocating whether our marriages will ever be valid in the District’s eyes, just as they already are in our own.
Gays and lesbians in Washington, D.C., are tired of lip service and timidity. It’s time for marriage equality in the District of Columbia.
And it’s time for the mayor to throw us a little respect, not just beads.