Supreme Court refuses to block DC same-sex marriage law News
Supreme Court refuses to block DC same-sex marriage law

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday denied [opinion, PDF] an emergency appeal to prevent Washington DC's same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] law from taking effect. Chief Justice John Roberts, acting as circuit justice for the DC area, denied an application [text, PDF] requesting a stay pending further review of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 [text, PDF]. The request was filed by Reverend Harry Jackson and other petitioners seeking to delay enforcement of the new law. Roberts rejected the request because the court was unlikely to grant certiorari for the following reasons:

First, as "a matter of judicial policy" – if not "judicial power" – "it has been the practice of the Court to defer to the decisions of the courts of the District of Columbia on matters of exclusively local concern."

Second, the Act at issue was adopted by the Council and placed before Congress for the 30-day period of review required by the DC Charter. A joint resolution of disapproval by Congress would prevent the Act from going into effect, but Congress has chosen not to act.

Finally, while petitioners' challenge to the Act by way of a referendum apparently will become moot when the Act goes into effect, petitioners have also pursued a ballot initiative, under related procedures in the DC Charter, that would give DC voters a similar opportunity to repeal the Act if they so choose. Their separate petition for a ballot initiative is now awaiting consideration by the DC Court of Appeals. … [T]he DC Court of Appeals will have the chance to consider the relevant legal questions on their merits, and petitioners will have the right to challenge any adverse decision through a petition for certiorari in this Court at the appropriate time.

The law entered into force Wednesday, and the DC Superior Court began accepting marriage license applications from same-sex couples.

In December, the Council of the District of Columbia [official website] gave both its preliminary and final approval [JURIST reports] to the legislation. After the bill was signed by DC Mayor Adrian Fenty [official profile], the US Congress had 30 legislative days to veto it under the Home Rule Act [text, PDF], which it declined to do. 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].