Metro Weekly

Utah Congressman Takes Aim at D.C.

Freshman representative's bill would block District's marriage-equality law; Del. Norton receives ''new assurances'' that the city's law is ''safe''

The ranking Republican member of the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia filed legislation on Tuesday, Jan. 26, disapproving of the District’s passage of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009. According to the District’s own delegate in Congress, however, the bill will not be moving forward.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), introduced the bill as the first formal step in the congressional process for overturning the marriage-equality bill passed by the District of Columbia in December 2009. In order to be overturned, Chaffetz’s bill would need to be passed by both the House and the Senate – where no such bill has been introduced – and signed by the president.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to which the District of Columbia Subcommittee reports. The committee chairman is Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), a strong supporter of LGBT equality and an original co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act aimed at overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), a member of both the committee and subcommittee, said in a statement on Wednesday that she had received ”new assurances” that marriage equality was ”safe” in the District.

”I am pleased that this resolution will not be taken up by the committee,” she said. Noting that Congress has taken a more supportive view of home rule in the District, Norton added that the marriage-equality bill is ”a home rule and human rights issue for the District alone to decide.”

Chaffetz, a conservative, first-term congressman representing Utah’s rural 3rd District, has made an issue of his opposition to LGBT-equality issues. He voted against the hate-crimes prevention legislation signed into law in October 2009 both as a standalone bill and as a part of the Defense Department Authorization Act. He also opposed the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act in committee.

Regarding marriage in the District, Chaffetz told the Salt Lake Tribune, ”If it were put up for a vote, traditional marriage would win. It would win with a congressional vote, and it would win with the residents of Washington, D.C.”

Chaffetz’s bill currently only has one co-sponsor, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).