Supreme Court declines appeal of D.C. gay marriage law

Opponents of the gay marriage law had sought to take the issue to D.C. voters in a referendum. But the refusal of the Supreme Court to hear the case effectively puts an end to the referendum.

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to take up a case seeking to force the Washington, D.C., government to hold a referendum on the city’s gay marriage law.

The high court declined to hear an appeal filed on behalf of opponents of a March 2010 law that made the District of Columbia the sixth jurisdiction in the United States authorizing gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The justices did not comment on the action. Their refusal to take up the case leaves in place an appeals-court decision upholding an earlier rejection of the planned referendum. The court ruled that the city was justified in rejecting the referendum because it sought to authorize a form of discrimination barred by the city’s Human Rights Act.

“Today’s action by the Supreme Court makes abundantly clear that D.C.’s human rights protections are strong enough to withstand the hateful efforts of outside anti-LGBT groups to put people’s basic civil rights on the ballot,” said Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, in a written statement.

At issue were two measures enacted in the District of Columbia in recent years. In May 2009, the D.C. Council passed a law recognizing in Washington the validity of same-sex weddings conducted in other jurisdictions. In December 2009, the council approved a civil-marriage equality amendment stating that “any person may enter into a marriage in the District of Columbia with another person, regardless of gender.” That law took effect in March 2010.

Opponents of the new laws sought to take the issue directly to the city’s voters. They proposed a marriage initiative that would alter the city’s laws to read: “only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the District of Columbia.”

The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics rejected the proposed initiative because, officials said, it clashed with antidiscrimination requirements in the city’s Human Rights Act.

Initiative proponents took their campaign to court, but the city’s position was upheld in both the trial and appeals courts. Tuesday’s action at the high court effectively ends the initiative controversy.

“The D.C. Council and Mayor courageously made marriage equality a reality last year, and the courts have since upheld the rights of D.C. residents to govern ourselves and take the necessary steps to eliminate discrimination in our community,” Mr. Solmonese said.

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