February 3, 2011 | by Peter Rosenstein
Fending off busybodies in Congress

Just last week, ultra-conservative Rep. Tim Jordan (R-Ohio) decided it was important to wade into the issue of marriage equality in D.C. As a member of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) he determined that he doesn’t have to spend his time on jobs and the economy and can squander precious hours getting involved in D.C. and social issues.

I wonder if his unemployed constituents would agree that he has already done all he can for them and so now he can move on to other things.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, was right to question whether this is what Republicans were elected to do. I think the answer would be a resounding no. Log Cabin issued a great statement telling the congressman what they thought of his initiative — an “anti-federalist attack on D.C.”

Cooper went on to say, “This Congress has important work to do without meddling in local affairs. Such an overreach sends a mixed message from the Republican Party actively trying to shrink the role of government in Americans’ daily lives.”

I assume that the statement would also refer to the bill introduced last week by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to reinstate education vouchers in the District.

We are more than 600,000 strong in the District of Columbia and we need to stand up for our rights. Home rule has to become a reality not just a slogan. We can debate issues like marriage equality, vouchers, gun control and needle exchange ourselves and even go to the courts to settle our disputes. But when our elected officials overwhelmingly pass a law, the local courts uphold it and the Supreme Court refuses to hear an appeal, the matter must be considered settled without a bunch of busybodies in Congress trying to step in.

For the next two years we will be fighting this Republican House of Representatives on these issues. They began their reign by stripping D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of her vote in committee. I am glad there are members of the Republican Party like Cooper who are willing to stand up and say “stay out of D.C.’s business.” Let’s hope we can count on President Obama to stand up for us and veto any bills that seek to interfere with our right to govern ourselves.

We must be willing to work in tandem with a lot of different groups and collectively stay on message. We need to separate our personal positions on individual issues and join in the fight for full democracy and real home rule. Saying you are for home rule and then asking Congress to interfere on your own personal issue, as the Washington Post editorial board did again last weekend on vouchers, is the height of hypocrisy.

In 2006 the Foundation for All DC Families, the group that helped found the marriage equality organization Campaign for All DC Families, took a poll on marriage equality. While marriage equality was supported overall in the District, the percentages of support differed widely in each ward. However, what came out clearly in the poll was the overwhelming support in every area of the District for self-determination and for Congress to stay out of our business.

So this is the issue on which we can come together. We must ask Congress to ignore religious bigots like Harry Jackson of Maryland who want to meddle in D.C.’s affairs, and we need to have a consistent message on the need for budget and legislative autonomy while we continue the fight for a vote for our delegate and full statehood.

We need to find supporters of this position in the home districts of those members of Congress who try to interfere with our laws and ask them to tell their elected officials that that is not what they sent them to Congress to do.

Our local elected officials are fully capable of representing the will of the people. If D.C. residents feel strongly that they haven’t, they have the option of throwing them out of office in a peaceful election. That is what makes us different from other nations. We in the District of Columbia need to demand the same democratic rights that every other American has. Now is the time to stand up and be counted for home rule and self-determination.

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