Metro Weekly

Roberts Rules

Chief Justice declines to issue stay, clearing the way for marriage equality to take effect in the District on March 3; opponents place hopes on ''due process'' lawsuit

In an opinion posted to the U.S. Supreme Court’s web site after 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, Chief Justice John Roberts, acting alone, rejected the request of marriage equality opponents that he stall the effective date of the District’s marriage equality bill. The action was taken in response to a request from Bishop Harry Jackson and others on March 1 and allows for the D.C. marriage equality bill to go into effect on March 3, absent any other action.

Roberts wrote: “Without addressing the merits of petitioners’ underlying claim, however, I conclude that a stay is not warranted.” He specifically noted the argument advanced by the District that the Supreme Court generally defers to the local D.C. courts for “matters of exclusively local concern.”

Roberts paid particular attention in his short, 3-page opinion to the fact that “[a] joint resolution of disapproval by Congress would prevent the Act from going into effect, but Congress has chosen not to act.” He also noted the remaining availability of the initiative process in reaching his decision not to grant the stay.

Roberts considered the matter for the Supreme Court in his role as the circuit justice for the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He also could have turned the matter over to the full court for consideration.

The only other action pending that could impact the March 3 anticipated start date for same-sex couples to be able to apply for marriage licenses in the District is an action filed by the same marriage equality opponents before hearing from the Supreme Court. They have filed a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asserting a violation of their due process rights. They are seeking an injunction keeping District officials from moving forward with marriage applications for same-sex couples. It is unclear at this time if the District Court will act on the matter.