Right Blames GOP for D.C. Marriage Equality
While families in Washington, D.C. celebrated their newly gained legal right to marry, anti-gay conservatives looked at the District’s new family parity law as something that should have been derailed by Republicans in Congress, which had 30 business days to take action against the law before it took effect this week.
The Washington Times sought comment from various conservatives who oppose GLBT equality. Among them were the executive director of anti-gay group the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which lunched a multi-state advertising campaign last year to warn that marriage equality would lead to an erosion of the rights of religious Americans. NOM has also been credited with major roles in repealing marriage rights in California and Maine.
"I’ll be straight with you: I think they could have done more," NOM’ Brian Brown told the Washington Times. "We needed a vote, and we didn’t get one."
Senate Republicans had other matters to deal with, including issues of genuine import such as the ongoing debate around health care reform. But since the decisive Democratic victories of 2008, the Republican Party has also shifted away from social hot-button issues, which many voters either disagree with, or which take less priority than fiscal issues among conservative constituents. A straw poll taken at last month’s CPAC convention--co-sponsored by conservative gay group GO-PROUD--showed that less than one percent of respondents ranked same-sex marriage as even being their #2 most pressing concern; much more on the minds of CPAC attendees, the poll indicated, are issues of government spending and the influence the federal government exerts over the lives of everyday Americans.
Anti-gay conservative fringe elements, however, continue to make the issue of full legal parity for GLBT Americans a focus. The Family Research Council’s Tom McClusky criticized Utah Republican Sen. Robert F. Bennett. Though Bennett did introduce legislation that would have delayed the new law’s implementation and put the rights of gay and lesbian families before the voters, the measure gained only scant support. McClusky suggested that Republicans could have done more, saying, "I haven’t seen any effort by Senator Bennett to push the legislation, or by the Senate [Republican] leadership." McClusky went on to say, "I think it would have been a natural to allow an up-or-down vote. And yet I didn’t see any action."
Anti-gay religious conservatives also continue to focus on the rights of gays and lesbians. Said the president of the anti-gay Catholic League, William Donohue, "[Congressional Republicans] have an inarticulateness about homosexuality that they don’t have on economic issues. They can talk on and on about the free market, but when it comes to gays, they’re jittery."
Anti-gay congressional Republicans also expressed disappointment, with Jason Chaffetz, Rep. of Utah, calling his party’s response to the law "Weak and uncoordinated."
But another factor is at work as well--though Congress exerts great influence over the day-to-day affairs of Washington, D.C., it is showing signs of ceding more of the city’s needs and obligations to the city itself, according to a March 4 Associated Press article.
By Constitutional mandate, Congress is in charge of the city’s affairs, including final say over its budget--a situation to which D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty objects, saying that much of what goes on the city’s governance is "of no interest to Congress whatsoever."
It’s only been within the last fifty years that residents of Washington, D.C. have gained voting privileges in presidential races--or gained meaningful representation in Congress, though residents of the District continue to enjoy less representation than do citizens in any of the 50 states (a few of which are more sparsely populated than the city itself). If the District’s Congresswoman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, has her way, the city may soon have greater control over its own lawmaking and budgetary processes--including an end to Congressional oversight of which laws enacted by the city council and signed by its mayor may be retained.