A Timeline on Marriage Recognition in D.C.
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A Timeline on Marriage Recognition in D.C.

Note: In response to suggestions that the D.C. Council's April 7, 2009 vote
to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions was taken without
sufficient planning, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington,
D.C. provides the following timeline showing highlights of lobbying and
advocacy efforts over the years.

Compilation updated on April 19, 2009


July 1975

GLAA members Cade Ware, Frank Kameny and Craig Howell testify before the D.C. Council in favor of Councilmember Arrington Dixon’s no-fault divorce bill, which includes legalization of same-sex marriages.

September 26, 1991

Daniels protests to Mayor Dixon on Corporation Counsel brief:

"Our objection is not simply that the Corporation Counsel has taken a position against the marital rights of Gay men and Lesbians, but that this brief goes far beyond a narrow technical position to make a sweeping, gratuitous attack on the rights of Gay citizens to equal protection under the law. Specifically, the brief makes numerous appeals to canon law and religious traditions, displaying a flagrant disregard for the separation of church and state required by the First Amendment's establishment clause. This echoes the homophobic rhetoric in the notorious Hardwick decision, which is as offensive to Gays as appeals to Plessy v. Ferguson would be to Blacks."


May 16, 1994

Coudriet details complaints against Office of Corporation Counsel:

"Under your involvement, your office has taken the position that discrimination (e.g., against men marrying men) can be justified if it is evenly applied (i.e., women can't marry women either), an unbelievable return to the segregationist's argument in the anti-miscegenation case of Loving v. Virginia (blacks may not marry whites, but that's not discrimination because whites also cannot marry blacks). You may personally be comfortable asserting long-dead segregationists' arguments but you must understand that opprobrium that would justifiably attach to such a position at both levels."


July 1, 1996

"Families" section of GLAA's Agenda: 1996

July 28, 1999

D.C. Appropriations Working Group Issues Talking Points in Defense of a Clean D.C. Appropriations Bill

April 15, 2002

GLAA comments on proposed Domestic Partnership rulemaking; Bob Summersgill, President:

"…The regulations also fail to recognize domestic partnerships and civil unions created in other jurisdictions. It is prudent to extend full faith and credit to other jurisdictions' domestic partnerships. Those legal rights should not disappear in the District, but rather visitors and tourists should be covered in the case of accident or injury. The rights of hospital visitation and medical determination are no less important to our visitors than our citizens."


July 6, 2003

GLAA to Chairman Frelinghuysen: Please oppose social riders to DC Appropriations bill

December 2003

GLAA publishes Marriage Law in the District of Columbia, introduction by Bob Summersgill:

"The regulation established to implement the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992 failed to recognize domestic partnerships and similar legal structures created in other jurisdictions. It is prudent to extend full faith and credit to other jurisdictions’ domestic partnerships.. Those legal rights should not disappear in the District, but rather visitors and tourists should be covered in the case of accident or injury. The rights of hospital visitation and medical determination are no less important to our visitors than to our citizens. Recognition of existing legal relationships also makes the District more attractive to potential residents. It demonstrates a recognition that we find their relationships valuable and worth supporting as a matter of public policy. At least four jurisdictions already recognize other partnerships: Cambridge, Massachusetts; Key West, Florida; Oakland, California; and West Hollywood, California. D.C. should do no less."


March 2, 2004

GLAA applauds DC Council for unanimously introducing anti-FMA resolution

March 16, 2004

GLAA Memo: How to Get from Here to Marriage in One Easy Step: You Can't

May 15, 2004

GLAA publishes compilation: Where D.C. Officials stand on equal marriage rights

May 16, 2004

GLAA publishes compilation: Where D.C. Officials stand on recognizing relationships from other jurisdictions

May 16, 2004

GLAA publishes "Defending Gay Families in Washington, D.C.": talking points for meetings with members of Congress

July 12, 2004

Human Rights Campaign issues talking points on marriage recognition in D.C.

July 21, 2004

House approves District's budget without ban on same-sex marriage recognition, The Washington Post

December 19, 2004

GLAA open letter to the community: Preparing to oppose an anti-gay ballot initiative

April 20, 2005

GLAA update on marriage fight in D.C.

May 3, 2005

OCFO Releases Tax Ruling on Question of Married, Same-Sex Couple Income Tax Filing Eligibility Under DC Law

May 4, 2005

GLAA update on gay couples, Congress, and the District

January 6, 2006

GLAA to Blade: Winning marriage requires strategy, The Washington Blade:

“Ken Sain correctly notes our opposition to the public release of an analysis by D.C. Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti on recognizing same-sex marriages from Massachusetts, but falsely calls this an effort "to keep gay issues in the closet." GLAA wrote the book on gay marriage in the District, and there is nothing closeted about us. We are simply dealing with reality: defying Congress may feel good, but Congress would veto our action and would likely revoke existing protections for gay families.” -Rick Rosendall


June 27, 2007

GLAA Alert: Rep. Goode targets DPs in DC Appropriations bill

June 29, 2007

Testimony by Bob Summersgill on “Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Amendment Act of 2007,” Bill 17-0135:

"...[W]e should recognize domestic partnerships, civil unions and similar legal relationships like from other jurisdictions. I recommend a new paragraph in the chapter on establishing domestic partnerships:

§ 32-702. Domestic partnership registration and termination procedures (i) Legal relationships substantially similar to domestic partnerships defined in this chapter from other jurisdictions are recognized as domestic partnerships in the District.

"The language needs to be broad and somewhat vague because the terminology varies from state to state and country to country. Benefits also vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and the list of jurisdictions changes frequently. With the passage of this expanded bill, D.C. would have essentially the same rights and responsibilities for both domestic partnerships and marriage. That high standard is what we should use for evaluating recognition of other jurisdictions’ laws. This is similar to what other jurisdictions do, including New Jersey and the United Kingdom.

"The proposed language should cover civil unions from Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Hampshire, and domestic partnerships from California and Oregon. I believe that it would exclude domestic partnerships from Maine and reciprocal beneficiaries from Hawaii, as those laws only cover a few areas, and are therefore not substantially similar."

As a result of this testimony, Phil Memndelson rewrote the bill and it became the “Omnibus Domestic Partnership Equality Amendment Act of 2008.”


October 19, 2007

Summersgill testifies on Domestic Partnership Amendments Act:

"...it will not be very long before this Council will be dealing with the recognition of same-sex marriages from either other jurisdictions such as Massachusetts and Canada, or the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples by the District government. In order to facilitate that day, it would be prudent to modernize the language as we come to it."


December 1, 2007

GLAA flyer: Civil Marriage Equality — a Marathon Effort

May 15, 2008

Rosendall discusses CA marriage victory, implications for D.C.

June 27, 2008

GLAA updates compilation: Where D.C. Officials Stand on Defending Gay Families

July 2, 2008

"Marriage and Family" section of GLAA's Agenda: 2008

December 12, 2008

D.C. to recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions performed elsewhere, The Washington Blade.

January 28, 2009

Summersgill presses Mayor’s office on DP recognition

February 16, 2009

GLAA Action Alert: Urge Mayor to certify DPs from other jurisdictions:

Mayor Fenty gave the following written response during the 2006 mayoral campaign to a question from GLAA:

“We have in the District of Columbia one of the highest percentages of gay families to our total population that any other city in the nation. We have over 5% of couples households in the District that identify as gay or lesbian.... I am also supportive of recognizing the rights and responsibilities given to these relationships in other states when those couples move to the District of Columbia. This will make DC a more attractive place to move to and one of our goals is to increase our population and our tax base.”


February 20, 2009

GLAA rebukes AG Nickles, urges markup of DP parentage bill

February 20, 2009

Summersgill slams Nickles on DP parentage bill:

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles refuses to certify domestic partners and civil unions from other states and countries for recognition as Domestic Partners in the District. This makes them as legal strangers if they come to D.C.. Passage of the Omnibus Domestic Partnership Equality Amendment Act of 2008 (Law 17-231) added a new section to the D.C. Code, §32-702(i), which reads, “Relationships established in accordance with the laws of other jurisdictions that are substantially similar to domestic partnerships established by this chapter, as certified by the Mayor, shall be recognized as domestic partnerships in the District.”


February 27, 2009

Flaws in D.C. DP law?: Nickles says 4 states disqualified for partner recognition, but Mendelson calls the problem ‘manufactured’, The Washington Blade

February 27, 2009

Summersgill sends an email to Mendelson requesting an amendment to the Parentage bill creating automatic recognition of DPs, CUs, and marriages as DPs in the District. Draft legislation is included. Rosendall follows up with an email in support. Mendelson responds on Sunday, March 1, 2009 that he will amend the bill as requested.

March 5, 2009

Partners in Limbo: Activists plan new strategy as out-of-state partnerships wait for recognition, Metro Weekly

March 6, 2009

Mendelson meets with Bob Summersgill and Rick Rosendall on removing Mayor's latitude in recognizing DPs, CUs, and marriages from other jurisdictions through an amendment to the Domestic Partnership Judicial Determination of Parentage Act 2009, B18-0066. This meeting is not documented on the web. Mendelson wanted to recognize marriages as marriages. Rosendall and Summersgill agreed that this was a good idea, but not in the Parentage bill where Congressional opposition might undermine adoption and other parental rights of domestic partnerships. The original draft language is thrown out and re-drafted.

March 9, 2009

Mendelson Urges Recognition: Councilmember pens letter to Mayor Fenty regarding out-of-state partnerships, Metro Weekly (The actual letter was dated 3/9/2009, the article was dated 3/19/2009.)

March 10, 2009

Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary unanimously vote in favor of the parentage bill with the recognition section added.

March 17, 2009

Committee of the Whole places the Domestic Partnership Judicial Determination of Parentage Amendment Act of 2009, Bill 18-66, on the agenda for the Council’s Legislative Session on Tuesday, April 7, 2009.

March 17, 2009

David Catania objects to the recognition of marriages as domestic partnerships. After the Committee of the Whole meeting, David Catania raised objections to Mendelson about recognizing marriages as any less than marriages. When contacted by Mendelson, on March 30, Summersgill and Rosendall reiterated their objections to including marriage as marriage recognition in the Parentage bill.

April 2, 2009

Mendelson discusses the plan to recognize marriages from other jurisdictions as marriage in the District through amending an unrelated bill. Activists—including Summersgill, Rosendall, and Michael Crawford—attending fundraiser for Mendelson’s re-election welcome the proposal.

April 7, 2009

Council unanimously amends “Disclosure to the United States District Court Amendment Act of 2009”, Bill 18-0010, to include a new section recognizing marriages between same-sex couples from other jurisdictions as marriages in the District. Bill 18-0066 (Parentage) is amended to remove recognition of marriages as DPs. It also passes unanimously.

April 7, 2009

GLAA thanks Councilmembers for marriage recognition vote

April 12, 2009

Rosendall: clarification & fact check on Marc Fisher column:

"GLAA strongly supports marriage equality; indeed, we have been among its leading local advocates in D.C. for many years.... Prior to the D.C. Council's April 7 vote on recognition of same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions, GLAA conveyed our support for the measure in consultations with Councilmember Phil Mendelson, as the logical next step in our collective efforts toward the goal of full marriage equality. GLAA believes that D.C. should pursue marriage equality legislation as soon as discussions among our allies suggest it has a reasonable chance of being sustained, given Congress' history of interference in D.C. self-rule. The sustainability standard is one that we first heard articulated by Councilmember David Catania."


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