March 2, 2010 at 10:46 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Supreme Court rejects request to block D.C. gay marriage law

U.S. Supreme Court (DC Agenda photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request late Tuesday that D.C.’s same-sex marriage law be prevented from taking effect, a move that would have given opponents more time to organize a voter referendum to overturn the law.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who ruled on the matter on behalf of the court, issued a three-page decision saying Bishop Harry Jackson and others opposed to the marraige law could not show that they could win the case on its merits, or that allowing the law to take effect would cause them irreparable harm.

Roberts said the opponents’ argument that the D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics acted improperly by denying the referendum request on grounds that it would violate the city’s Human Rights Act “has some force.”

“Without addressing the merits of the petitioners’ underlying claim, however, I conclude that a stay is not warranted,” he wrote. Roberts cited past rulings of the Supreme Court that have said it’s the court’s practice to “defer to the decisions of the courts of the District of Columbia on matters of exclusively local concern.”

The D.C. Superior Court and Court of Appeals previously ruled against Jackson’s request for a stay in the gay marriage law.

Roberts also disputed one of Jackson’s claims that D.C. violated its own Home Rule Charter approved by Congress when it restricted the use of referenda and initiatives that take away rights protected by the city’s Human Rights Act. Jackson and his backers have said that policy is invalid because the City Council enacted it as a regular law rather than as an amendment to the City Charter.

“A joint resolution of disapproval by Congress would prevent the act from going into effect, but Congress has chosen not to act,” Roberts wrote. “The challenged provision purporting to exempt certain D.C. Council actions from the referendum process … was itself subject to review by Congress before it went into effect.”

The appeal to the Supreme Court came after the D.C. Superior Court and the D.C. Court of Appeals rejected earlier requests for a court injunction to block the law. Those requests were filed by Jackson, the pastor of a Beltsville, Md., church and other local opponents of same-sex marriage.

Rev. Walter Fauntroy, D.C.’s former delegate to Congress, was among the same-sex marriage opponents that filed the stay request Monday before the Supreme Court.

Gay rights attorney Mark Levine said earlier that an appeal to the Supreme Court to intervene in the matter would have to be based on a claim that allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in the District would violate the opponents’ constitutional rights.

“I don’t believe there’s any constitutional issues involved in this,” he said last week. “But I’m sure Rev. Jackson’s attorneys could come up with something.”

Levine had said the chance that the court would agree with a constitutional claim was highly unlikely.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • This obnoxious bishop has to be stopped. Its time to audit his hate mongering church and take away their tax exempt status. He should likewise be fined for pretending to be a DC resident when he and his church are actually located in Maryland. When is the gay community going to shine the light of truth on this bigot and ensure that he is punished for his violations of the law.

  • Great news! The Surpreme Court said they would not hear the case! Another victory!

  • Well thank God for that! The conservative dominated Supreme Court made the right decision and refused to hear the hate mongering bishop’s case. Now perhaps this bigot can return to Maryland and give up his crusade against gay & lesbian people’s rights.

  • To say that I’m surprised that it was Justice Roberts who rejected the anti-marriage opponents’ appeal would be an understatement.

    I’ve predicted that when the lawsuit against Proposition 8 finally reaches the Supreme Court, the justices would likely split 5-4 to strike it down.

    Now, in the wake of Justice Roberts’ decision not to overturn D.C.’s same-gender marriage law, I can only wonder if the high court’s eventual Prop. 8 ruling could go 6-3 against the voter-approved measure.

  • The Washington Post article sounded more ominous, to me. It even sounded a bit like Roberts was “coaching” Jackson and anti-gay groups… that the issue is still being considered by the D.C. Court of Appeals, and so is not the time (yet) for the Supreme Court to get involved:

    “The request for an initiative will not become moot when the act becomes law,” Roberts wrote. “On the contrary, the D.C. Court of Appeals will have the chance to consider the relevant legal questions on their merits, and petitioners will have the right to challenge any adverse decision through a petition for certiorari in this Court at the appropriate time.”

    I think the conservatives on the court have a lonnng view towards the future, and the impact they can have on it. And I also believe that Roberts, Alito etc would have NO PROBLEM overturning hundreds of thousands of same-sex marriages in America sometime in the future. Or, as they like to call them: homosexual *marriages*. Coincidentally, this would uphold the authority of major ruling religious figures: the Catholic Pope, the Mormon Church, etc etc the list goes on.

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