Monday the D.C. Council will begin the final debate on whether to legalize same sex marriage in the District of Columbia. According to the Washington Post:
After months of strategizing, the debate over whether the District should legalize same-sex marriage is entering its final stages as a council committee takes up the issue Monday. Hundreds have signed up to testify, setting the stage for one of the largest council hearings ever, officials said. Another hearing Monday is scheduled before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, which must decide whether to allow a ballot initiative on whether marriage in the District should be restricted to unions involving one man and one woman.
To get an initiative on the ballot, its supporters must convince the elections board that their proposal would not discriminate against gay men and lesbians. Most legal observers expect the board will deny the request. This summer, the board rejected a referendum proposal to block the city from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Protestors and supporters of same sex marriage have signed up to speak. The Council is expected to approve same sex marriage before Christmas.
Because of the location and uniqueness of Washington, D.C., whatever happens will very much affect Virginia, Maryland, and other near-by states. Much of what the Council will consider involves protection of churches and clergymen who oppose same-sex marriage.
Some of the testimony will center on whether the bill, which is sponsored by council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), goes far enough in exempting religious groups and affiliated organizations from having to participate in same-sex weddings.
Under the draft before the committee, churches and religious officials would not have to marry same-sex couples. Religious organizations could also deny reception space and other services to same-sex couples “unless the entity makes such services, accommodations, or goods available for purchase, rental, or use to members of the general public.”
Other than symbolism, how does same-sex marriage change anything? Since D.C. is not a state, can the federal government impose any sort of sanctions on what they might be getting ready to do? Would only those same-sex couples who reside in D.C. be able to actually benefit from marriage?
Should the legislation pass making same-sex marriage legal in D.C., should same-sex couples be entitled to everything traditional married couples are entitled to? If someone doesn’t approve of inter-racial marriage, are they allowed to opt out? Can’t ministers refuse to marry people without giving a reason?
How would this legislation affect same sex couples who live in Virginia? While Virginia does not recognize same sex marriage, could the couple be arrested? Would they be able to file a joint federal tax return and not a joint state return? Just how would all of this work?
The Virginia Marriage Amendment
(And then those after thought questions: will I be sorry I posted these question?)