The History of Same-Sex Marriage in Washington D.C.
As Perry v. Brown, the landmark case in the state of California challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, makes it way through the appellate court system and possibly all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, states across the country are determining the constitutionality of same-sex marriage via legislation and the judiciary.
In Washington D.C., the history of same-sex marriage starts in 1992 when the district began recognizing domestic partnerships between same- and opposite-sex couples through the Health Benefits Expansion Act. However, it wasn't until 2002 that the law was fully implemented. In the previous decade congressional Republicans successfully added annual provisions to the bill prohibiting federal and local funds being used to put the bill into effect.
Once the Health and Benefits Expansion Act was fully implemented in 2002, in the years following additional legislation was passed further expanding the rights of domestic partners in the district. Such expansions included the right to make decisions pertaining to healthcare for one's partner, the right to file jointly for local income tax, and domestic partners were granted the same rights as spouses in matters of inheritance and guardianship.
In 2008 the Omnibus Domestic Partnership Equality Amendment Act was passed by the city council unanimously, granting domestic partners 39 additional rights formerly accorded only to heterosexual couple such as survivor benefits for retirement or worker's compensation. The law brought the legal rights of same-sex domestic partners considerably closer to that of spouses.
Then in 2009 the efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington D.C. entered high gear starting with the district's decision to recognize same-sex marriages valid in other states. Opponents of the bill attempted to delay implementation until a voter referendum could be held to either approve or dismiss it, but such attempts failed as they were ruled in violation of the Human Rights Act.
Washington D.C's recognition of same-sex marriages valid in other states was considered by many to be a catalyst for the district's own passage of a marriage law granting same-sex couples marriage equality, and in October of 2009 the Religious Freedom And Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act was introduced to the city council. Opponents once again failed to delay implementation until a voter referendum could be held.
After a mandatory 30-day period for congressional review, the act survived and was made into law in December 2009, making Washington D.C. the seventh region in the U.S. to allow same-sex marriage, and the first below the Mason-Dixon line, the unofficial north-south borderline.
As of March 3, 2010, same-sex couples in Washington D.C. have enjoyed all of the legal rights accorded through marriage formally granted only to heterosexual couples.