• Photo for As DC's Gay Marriage Law Goes to Court, Licenses Quadruple
    Photo Credit: iStockPhoto

As DC's Gay Marriage Law Goes to Court, Licenses Quadruple

By L.K. Regan

In early May, a DC court of appeals heard a challenge to the District's recent law legalizing gay marriage. Perhaps the justices would be interested in the fact that, in the two months since its legalization, not only has gay marriage not killed off straight marriage, but Washington, D.C. is actually set to break its own marriage records.

On May 6, a Maryland pastor challenged D.C.'s gay marriage law in a court of appeals, arguing that, "The D.C. city charter gives people the right to vote and the right to initiate and strike down laws," in the words of Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., who brought the suit. This is not the first time the law has been attacked in court. In January, the superior court for D.C. upheld an elections board decision to prevent Jackson's proposed ballot amendment. Now, Jackson has had his hearing before the Court of Appeals, which took the unusual step of convening the full nine-judge panel rather than first sending the case to be heard by a three-judge group. This may indicate their sense of the historic implications of the decision.

Jackson is banking on the fact that, should he get his measure on the November ballot, gay marriage in D.C. will rapidly become a thing of the past. According do a recent Washington Post poll, six in 10 D.C. residents do believe that marriage should be up for a popular vote. But the same proportion "favor making it legal for gay couples to marry." Even if the court rules in his favor, Jackson may find that his ballot measure doesn't have the effect he would like. Gays may well continue to have the right to marry in Washington, D.C.

And whoah, are they ever marrying! Gay marriage became legal in the District on March 3, and ever since, applications for marriage licenses have been pretty much on fire. A D.C. radio station reports that, "In the first three months of 2010, the court processed 376 applications [for marriage licenses]. Since March 3... the marriage license office has received 2,082 applications." That's a lot. "To put that in perspective," one D.C. judge told the reporter, "All of last year was about 3,000."

Are gays the reason the nation's capitol (which, ironically, is under the supervision of congress, itself governed by the Defense of Marriage Act) is set to quadruple its annual number of marriage licenses? While the court does not record the numbers of gay versus straight marriages, it's hard to see what other explanation there could be. And all those marriages are bringing in money, to the tune of $45 per license. If they really do quadruple their applications this year, that could amount to over $400,000 in additional revenue, money that is paid into a fund compensating victims of violent crime.

Maybe gay marriage opponents should be asked to explain why they want to deny violent crime victims their rightful compensation?