U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday evening denied a request to stop Washington, D.C.’s new marriage equality law from going into effect Wednesday, March 3.
Anti-gay marriage opponent Harry Jackson and others petitioned the high court to intervene in D.C. government and stop the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act” from taking effect until voters can address the issue through referendum.
Roberts said he thinks the argument Jackson’s group makes “has some force,” it would not issue a stay of the new law. He said the high court typically defers to the local courts concerning “matters of exclusively local concern.” He noted that Congress, which has the power to review D.C. laws for 30 days before they take effect, took no action against the marriage equality measure. And he pointed out that Jackson’s group still has the option to seek a ballot measure through an initiative process, rather than a referendum.
The D.C. courts and its Board of Election ruled that a referendum on the marriage equality law would violate the city’s charter, which prohibits referenda on matters pertaining to the city’s human rights act. The group already has a petition before the D.C. Court of Appeals, concerning it request to hold an initiative to repeal the measure.
Roberts issued the decision in the case, Jackson v. D.C., because it came from D.C. and Roberts handles emergency petitions from the D.C. Circuit.
In January, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who handles emergency petitions for the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, engaged the full court in handling issues on two cases implicated same-sex marriage controversies. In one case, a 5 to 4 majority of the full court blocked a plan by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker to allow limited access to a broadcast of the trial involving a high-profile legal challenge of California’s anti-gay marriage initiative, Proposition 8. A few days later, the Supreme Court announced it would hear the appeal of anti-gay activists in Washington State who want to seal a public record which has the names of citizens who signed petitions to put a domestic partnership measure on the ballot last year. It takes four justices to agree to hear a case.
The Washington State case, Doe No. 1 v. Reed, is slated for oral arguments on April 28.