Bill to legalize SSM introduced.
Hearings on the bill
Valid out-of-state same-sex marriages recognized:
At midnight on the morning of 2009-JUL-07, as a result of action by the
Washington DC council and the lack of a veto by Congress, all legal out-of-state
marriages became recognized in DC, whether by same-sex or opposite-sex couples. The next step towards marriage equality would be to allow same-sex couples to
marry in Washington DC without having to leave the state.
The Baptist Press (BP)had earlierspeculated that if the resolution became law, that
D.C. council member David Catania (I) would introduce a resolution to
legalize same-sex marriage.
is openly homosexual, had earlier stated:
"Gays and lesbians bear every burden of citizenship and are entitled to every
benefit and protection that the law allows to everyone else." 1
New bill introduced to legalize SSM in Washington, DC:
BP's prophecy was correct. Catania did introduce a bill to
create marriage equality by allowing all loving, committed couples to marry, no
matter what their gender. This produced immediate outrage, primarily among
conservative Christians in Washington DC and the surrounding area. Rallies were
held to either have Washington council reject the bill or to promote a referendum so
that the public could bypass the city council and decide the issue directly.
The bill resulted in two hearings:
One was before the city's Committee on Public
Safety and the Judiciary on whether to recommend that the city council
pass or reject Bill 18-482, the "Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality
Amendment Act of 2009."
A second hearing was before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics on
whether to allow a ballot initiative that would allow the electorate to vote on whether marriage in the District
should be restricted to opposite-sex couples. Recent votes on election days in
California (2008) and Maine (2009) have
done exactly that. They squeaked by with a majority of only 2 or 3 percentage points. A
similar vote in Washington DC would be close; it might well veto SSM.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the
Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC) joined with other conservative para-church groups,
local DC congregations, pastors, laity. etc. in an attempt to either defeat Bill 18-482
or to force a referendum, and
thereby prevent marriage equality in the
District of Columbia. Meanwhile, civil rights groups, lesbian gay bisexual
transsexual (LGBT) groups, liberal and progressive religious groups -- including
over 250 local clergy -- promoted the bill.
Hearings on bill to legalize SSM:
Thecity Committee on Public
Safety and the Judiciary held public hearings on 2009-OCT-26 and NOV-02, to hear opinions from
the public about David Catania's (Ind.) Bill 18-482. 1,2
Because of the large number of witnesses - 267 in total -- testimony was limited
to a maximum of three minutes per person and was held over two days.
Among the 267 witnesses were 24 persons who represented
religious organizations. including: Unitarian Universalist, Jewish Reconstructionist, United Church of Christ (2), Congregational United Church of
Christ, Covenant Baptist Church. Unity Fellowship Church, Episcopal Church,
Metropolitan Community Church, Roman Catholic Church, Society of Friends
(Quaker), American Apostolic Church, Washington Ethical Society, United
Methodist Church, Jewish Community Relations Council, Interfaith Conference,
Palisades Community Church, Christ Living Ministry, International Christian Host
Coalition, Christ Community Church, Bethel World Outreach Ministries, Living
Word Church, and two individuals representing dioceses that
might be Catholic or Episcopal.
A testimony opposing SSM:
On 2009-OCT-26, Richard D. Land, President of the ERLC submitted
testimony to the DC's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. He
arguing against SSM and in favor of defeating Bill 18-482.
There is a certain irony associated with a Christian leader who
has committed his life to promoting religious liberty and ethics while actively
Discrimination against a minority -- loving, committed same-sex
couples -- who wish to exercise a
fundamental human right: to marry the person that they love and to whom they
have made a lifetime commitment of support.
Denial of the religious liberty of many liberal and progressive
Christian denominations and congregations who want to be free to perform marriages for their
entire membership, including loving, committed same-sex
His testimony presented three arguments against SSM:
SSM would damage families in DC. He argued
that "traditional marriage" between a man and woman improves the happiness of
both adults and children in a family, reduces child poverty, decreases infant
mortality, lowers crime rates, substance abuse, etc. It increases the stability
of, and safety within, communities.
Unfortunately, he did not discuss whether the rights, obligations -- and above all
protections -- given to married same-sex couples and their children would produce
the same positive results. Instead, he commented on ten years of data from Scandinavian
countries where he said that "same-sex marriage is legal." He
appears to be confused in this point. Among the Scandinavian countries, only
Norway and Sweden have legalized SSM, and that happened only a few months before
the hearing. There does not exist ten years of data to draw on. In the rest of Europe, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain now have SSM, but Dr. Land did not
provide data from these countries.
The religious liberties of citizens would be significantly
infringed upon. He believes that this would take at least two forms:
Public school teachers might be required to teach the fact that both
opposite-sex and same-sex couples can marry in the District.
He also said:
"... government restrictions on the religious freedom of religious groups,
potentially exposing them to government reprisal for honoring their faith
convictions about homosexuality and consequently violating the civil rights of
homosexual couples whose marriages have been legally sanctioned."
We haven't been able to figure out what the second part of his sentence
means. However, he does make the same mistake as essentially all other commentators: same-sex
marriages are not necessarily composed of two lesbians or two gays;
sometimes they consist of one person with a homosexual orientation and one
bisexual; still others consist of two bisexuals.
It is unclear what form these "restrictions" would take. The
First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees
that faith groups can continue to discriminate against sexual minorities and
same-sex couples by refusing to marry them, by rejecting their
membership, ordination, and employment, etc. The same Amendment protects the
free speech rights of clergy and laity -- including religious hate speech and even advocacy of
genocide -- against same-sex couples
and sexual minorities generally.
Most Southern Baptists oppose SSM. That is to be expected
because American adults are almost evenly split on whether SSM should be
legalized, and most Southern Baptists are politically conservative. He did not
mention that liberal and progressive Christians and their denomination heavily favor
Attached to Dr. Land's testimony were copies of resolutions
dealing with marriage that had been passed by the Southern Baptist Convention
since 1937. 3