Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell

(San Francisco, CA, January 18, 2011)—Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a decision by the District of Columbia’s highest court that an initiative taking away the right to marry from same-sex couples cannot go on the ballot. Today’s ruling puts an end to the legal battle to secure marriage equality in our nation’s capital.

In December 2009, the D.C. Council passed the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Act of 2009, which eliminated the ban on marriage by same-sex couples. The bill was subsequently signed by then Mayor Adrian Fenty, and became law on March 3, 2010. In an attempt to nullify the law, anti-LGBTQ activists proposed ballot initiatives on the right of same-sex couples to marry. Such initiatives, however, were not certified because, as the D.C. Court of Appeals held in October 2010, placing the marriage rights of same-sex couples on the ballot would impermissibly allow discrimination against LGBTQ people that is prohibited by the D.C. Human Rights Act. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal on this case means that the decision of the Court of Appeals is final and that the D.C. marriage law is secure.

NCLR filed an amicus brief in the case as a member of the Campaign for All D.C. Families, a diverse coalition working to ensure the freedom to marry in the District of Columbia.

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“We are heartened that the Supreme Court has chosen not to review the decision of the D.C. Court of Appeals, which correctly held that a majority cannot put up the rights of a minority for a vote. Fundamental rights can never be left up to a show of hands. The cornerstone of a constitutional democracy is the protection of minority rights, even, and especially, where the majority would not vote to protect them. We applaud the Supreme Court for refusing to condone placing the rights of the LGBTQ community up for a vote.”

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The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.