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DC appeals court hears arguments in same-sex marriage case

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals [official website] heard arguments Tuesday on whether DC voters should be allowed to decide on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] in the city. While appeals are normally decided by a three-judge panel, the full nine-member court convened for Tuesday's arguments. The appeal comes after a judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] in January that a law allowing Washington DC to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere is not subject to a public referendum [JURIST report]. Reverend Harry Jackson had urged the court to force the DC Council to allow the public to vote on a measure defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The judge refused, affirming a November decision [text, PDF; JURIST report] by the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics [official website], which held that putting the act to a public vote would violate DC's Human Rights Act [text]. Jackson's lawyer argued [AP report] Tuesday that the law should be subject to referendum. DC's solicitor defended the law, arguing that the city's charter doesn't guarantee referendums for specific issues.

DC began recognizing same-sex marriages in March after the US Supreme Court [official website] denied an emergency appeal to block the law from taking effect. DC has now become the sixth US jurisdiction to recognize marriage between same-sex couples, joining five US states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire [JURIST reports]. Same-sex civil unions are currently recognized in Washington, New Jersey, Oregon, and Nevada [JURIST reports].

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