GLAA update on gay couples, Congress, and the District
"Like it or not, we are in a marathon for civil marriage rights, not a sprint, and we cannot expect to take a taxi to the finish line and claim victory without bothering to run the race."
|From:||"Rick Rosendall" ||To: ||firstname.lastname@example.org
||Sent: ||Wednesday, May 04, 2005 8:42 AM
||Subject: ||GLAA update on gay couples, Congress, and the District
D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi ruled on May 3 that D.C. law
allows only couples who file joint federal returns to file jointly in the
District. This, coupled with the federal Defense of Marriage Act passed in
1996, means that Ed Horvath and Richard Neidich, and other gay couples with
out-of-state marriage licenses, cannot file joint D.C. tax returns. Sadly,
we must agree with the District's decision. The decision is online at:
GLAA has already been on record urging the City not to accept those joint filings at this time due to the virtual certainty that it would provoke Congress into rolling back the gains that we have made for gay families in the District. It is hard for some to hear that the time is not anywhere close to being ripe for D.C. to be pushing for this right now, but it is true. Some, such as Councilmember Jim Graham and the editors of the Washington Blade, seem convinced that provoking Congress into stomping on the District would somehow be salutary. How that is so has never been explained. A ringing call to "take a stand" is not a strategy.
Like it or not, we are in a marathon for civil marriage rights, not a sprint, and we cannot expect to take a taxi to the finish line and claim victory without bothering to run the race. We all have many years of political organizing and educating and persuading ahead of us. GLAA has explained our position at length, and those who demand everything right now without working for it, who dismiss us as being out of touch or overcautious, have offered more passion than reason. Graham recently responded to our April 20 statement by saying, "Nonsense and poppycock" -- that is, he dismisses us without bothering to explain why we are wrong.
The fact is that as a community we are way ahead of ourselves politically on the marriage issue. GLAA is committed to working for marriage equality that sticks -- not for a mere satisfying gesture that will be erased by Congress before it ever takes effect. Making it stick is years away, and we all have our work cut out for us in the meantime. Grandstanding will not do it. From the Blade's attacks against GLAA, you would never know that GLAA has done more than anyone else in town to advance the rights of gay families in the District. Ironically, even as the Blade's editors have repeatedly attacked us, its reporters have relied on our research and expertise on the issue.
Mr. Gandhi's decision may have helped the District dodge a bullet in our FY 2006 appropriations bill on Capitol Hill. What is certain is that for the District to have accepted those joint filings would have been politically suicidal. The cautious approach the City is taking may be frustrating, but it is correct. D.C.'s registered domestic partners are benefiting from GLAA's experienced and informed advocacy, our incremental approach, and our refusal to be intimidated by the Blade's ill-informed attacks into backing down.
GLAA had been discussing changes to the tax law regarding domestic partners, but the action by Horvath and Neidich has now made that subject politically unapproachable in the near term. It would only play into the hands of anti-gay forces in Congress to press for full marriage right now in opposition to GLAA's incrementalist approach centered on domestic partnerships. Councilmember Graham says that the cat is out of the bag and the City has to release the Spagnoletti opinion because other gay married couples are going to keep coming forward with various demands and are entitled to an answer. This assumes that anyone has any doubt as to the outcome, when in fact it is plain as day that Congress will not allow the District either to issue marriage licenses or to recognize out-of-state marriages involving same-sex couples.
There is unanimous support in the D.C. Council for domestic partnerships, which Congress finally allowed the District to implement in 2002 after blocking it for ten years via the D.C. Appropriations Bill. We appreciate the Council's and the Mayor's support for gay families, and we hope that we will have your support as we continue to pursue our measured strategy on behalf of equality for all the families in the District.
Vice President for Political Affairs
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.