Chief Justice refuses appeal to stop D.C. marriage law

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.

Chief Justice John Roberts (Photo credit: Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)
Chief Justice John Roberts (Photo credit: Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

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.

2 thoughts on “Chief Justice refuses appeal to stop D.C. marriage law”

  1. Fear not. Cert will surely be granted in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. The interesting thing is that the basis for the attack on Prop H8 in that trial is Romer v. Evans which was authored by Kennedy. This was a very clever tactic. If Perry falls within Romer. then Kennedy is between the infamous rock and the proverbial hard place. It will take quite a tap dance to wiggle out from under his own precedent – he may not want to. We should not presume prejudice in SCOTUS justices – that’s a proven fallacy. See e.g. the Warren Court

    The irony is that the vast majority of gay rights organizations railed against this trial. They preferred the red-herring ‘state’s rights’ rubbish which is utterly self-contradictory. Loving [v. Virginia] stands for the proposition that marriage is not a ‘states rights’‘ issue. But when they realized that, if we win in Perry, they will be made to look utterly ridiculous, they all suddenly ‘evolved” (that’s the euphemism for flip-flop) and decided to support Boies et. al. By attacking the Perry trial and abjuring the ONLY valid and sure-fire legal remedy (resolve it ALL in one fell swoop!), gay activists betray the very constitutional bedrock at issue: the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the word “person.” It really is that simple.

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