Chat Highlights: Councilman vs. Marriage Activist
This afternoon, D.C. Councilman David Catania, who voted in favor of legislation to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, and Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, participated in an online discussion on the D.C. Council's vote, as well as the Vermont legislature's vote to permit gay marriage in that state. Highlights follow, and the entire discussion is available here.
"Arlington, Va.: The question popping up on the blogs I have visited today is, how will the conservatives try to spin the Vermont legislature's decision? When other states have had courts decide that same-sex marriage is legal the howls of protest were that the courts should not be allowed to decide. Now that the Vermont legislature has decided to allow it, what is the argument? That only a referendum should be allowed to decide?...
David Catania: I agree with the premise. Vermont marks the first time that a legislature has affirmatively extended marriage equality without being prompted by a court decision. The District of Columbia will likely be the second jurisdiction to do so. For years, we have heard that activist judges are redefining marriage. That argument will no longer hold water once elected legislatures follow suit.
Brian Brown: The Vermont legislature refused to allow the people a direct vote on the issue. This is why the same-sex marriage advocates are focusing on Vermont and other Northeastern states that don't have initiative or referendum . . . they know they lose when the people have a free and fair vote. In 30 of 30 states the citizens have spoken up and said we know what marriage is and it is the union of one man and one woman. Just this past election in Florida, Arizona, and most importantly California voters have affirmed the common-sense definition of marriage.
Advocates of same-sex marriage want to avoid a direct vote by the people at all costs."
"Los Angeles, Calif.: Mr. Brown:
If all civil rights were put to a popular vote only -- since you claim that not only the courts but also the legislatures are not the voice of the people -- would it follow that you would support a majority vote of, say, Mississippians to outlaw interracial marriage? Polls have consistently shown such a vote would turn out against interracial marriage in much of the Deep South. Where do you draw the line?
Brian Brown: The civil rights analogy is simply false. Period. African-Americans voted overwhelmingly to pass Prop. 8 in California. Many African-American leaders I work with don't want the civil rights movement hijacked to redefine marriage."
"Hoosick Falls, N.Y.: Why does gay marriage bother its opponents so much? How is my heterosexual marriage affected by it?
Brian Brown: Gay marriage does not just redefine marriage for same-sex coupes--it changes marriages meaning for everyone. Thus, in MA after passage of same-se marriage Boston Catholic Charities adoptions were SHUT DOWN. Why? Because the church could not adopt children to same-sex couples. The state said that this was "discrimination"---and allowed for now exemption. Thus, the state robbed Catholic Charities of the right to help our neediest children.
Examples abound. Ocean Grove Methodist Association losing part of its state tax exemption, etc."
"Sunnyside, Queens, N.Y.: Let me get this straight, if you are a D.C. resident in a same-sex relationship you CAN'T get married.
But if you move to D.C. from Vermont, Iowa, MA or CT you WILL get marriage benefits?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but with this decision same-sex marriage is still illegal in D.C. unless you came from elsewhere?
David Catania: The legislation, which the Council approved on First Reading today, will recognize lawful marriages performed in the four states that permit same-sex marriages. The question remains whether District citizens can travel to those states and get married and return home with a lawful marriage. I contend that those marriages would be legal. The District has a statute which specifically voids marriages that conflict with our statutes. For example, the age of consent for marriage in the District is 16. If two 14 year old District residents travel to Alabama, where the age of consent is 14, and get married, their marriage would be void in the District. We do not permit our citizens to circumvent our laws by getting married in another state. Importantly, our law is silent on same-sex marriages. Absent affirmative "positive" law that would void a same-sex marriage, District residents that get married out-of-state would be legal here.
Brian Brown: Marriage is the union of a man and a woman in DC. This has been litigated in Dean vs. District of Columbia, I believe."
"Arlington, Va.: Same sex marriage opponents are fighting against demographic trends. Younger people overwhelmingly favor allowing gays to marry. Referendums support banning gay marriage now, but give it a few years and marriage equality will have overwhelming support when the question is put to the people directly.
What will you do then? When eventually, an overwhelming majority of the population supports marriage equality (a near certainty given current demographic trends) will you accept it as the will of the people?
Brian Brown: People grow up. They change their views. I'm confident that through education and highlighting the consequences of same-sex marriage we'll add to the 30 states that have already passed constitutional amendments."
April 7, 2009; 5:00 PM ET
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