opportunity knocks

Should We Be Begging Congress to Vote on D.C.’s Marriage Bill Just to Know Where Lawmakers Stand?

In the recent fights for marriage equality in New York and New Jersey, activists, this website, and even governors called on state lawmakers to vote on gay marriage bills, even if they seemed destined for defeat, so voters and pundits would know where elected officials stood on endorsing discrimination. And whom to target when it came time for elections. But with Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett (right) introducing legislation in the Senate, following fellow Utah GOPer Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (below) effort in the House, both houses of Congress now have bills before that could nix Washington D.C.’s gay marriage law and put it up to the city’s voters. Should we be encouraging the House and Senate to vote on the bills — just so we know where they stood?

The obvious answer is No, don’t have House and Senate leaders bring the bills to a floor vote, because it could upend what’s seen as the inevitable legalization of gay marriage in the nation’s capital; following the City Council’s vote of approval, Congress is in the middle of a review period. If it doesn’t act, the bill will become law next month.


But we also have the chance to force federal lawmakers to go on the record as to whether they support gay marriage — or side with Yes On 8/Protect Marriage, and think voters should get to decide on your rights. It’s the earliest opportunity to make officials declare their stance on gay marriage by voting on it. And with just months before the mid-term elections, such a vote could serve as useful information about which Republicans (and Democrats) really need to find new careers. Particularly as we activists continue fighting to have the Defense of Marriage Act repealed (or is everyone just waiting for Perry?).

Of course, there’s a major risk in letting Congress vote on D.C.’s marriage. Namely, that it could go wrong, and the upside (knowing where lawmakers stand) isn’t worth the risk of the downside (forcing D.C.’s gay residents to have voters decide their marriage rights).