D.C.'S Same-Sex Marriage Battle; Eyes on Maine as Voters Decide to Repeal, Keep Gay-Union Law

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 30, 2009 | Go to article overview

D.C.'S Same-Sex Marriage Battle; Eyes on Maine as Voters Decide to Repeal, Keep Gay-Union Law


Byline: Deborah Simmons, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Religious leaders and faith-based opponents are mounting strong challenges against same-sex marriage legislation in the nation's capital,

but not all backers of gay marriage are seeing eye to eye on the D.C. bill. The D.C. battles play out as Maine voters prepare to cast ballots Tuesday on whether to repeal the state's same-sex marriage law.

Both sides in the coast-to-coast battle consider Question 1 on Maine's ballot to be an issue of whether Mainers will live and let live or the issue of morality will emerge victorious.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington opposes any measure to redefine marriage as other than between a man and a woman. It also says that the D.C. legislation, titled the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act, could trample on the First Amendment.

In written testimony to the D.C. Council, the archdiocese said the current version of the bill would restrict the free exercise of religious beliefs and contains no exemptions for churches and faith-based organizations that oppose gay marriage for religious reasons but provide services to the general public or rent space to individuals or groups outside their faith.

If there is no expanded protection for religious conscience, groups that oppose gay marriage but serve the community at large could be denied access to government facilities and contracts, the archdiocese said. Those groups include adoption services, doctors and nurses, child care and home health aides, and social workers.

Meanwhile, some pockets of the gay community complain that the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act will grant same-sex marriage rights but simultaneously deny another right - domestic partnerships.

The legislation would discontinue the registration of new domestic partnerships after Jan. 1, 2011, and allow existing partnerships to continue or convert to marriage without requiring the partners to pay additional fees. The problem is that there are varying schools of thought on phasing out partnerships, which were legalized in 1992. For example, some gay-marriage supporters say the issue of domestic partnerships should be debated on its own merits and not muddied with the same-sex marriage bill. Others point to the notarized registration form domestic partners must fill out.

The form, which is supplied by the D.C. Health Department, requires adults to meet several requirements, such as sharing a mutual residence and being at least 18 years old. The form also requires partners to swear, Neither of us is married or a member of another domestic partnership. …

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