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U.S. Supreme Court refuses to block D.C. gay marriage; law to take effect Wednesday

U.S. Supreme Court refuses to block D.C. gay marriage; law to take effect Wednesday

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request late today to block the District of Columbia’s gay marriage law from taking effect on Wednesday.

Opponents of the law had asked the Supreme Court to step in and issue a temporary delay so they could hold a city-wide referendum on the issue before the law took effect.

Chief Justice John Roberts released an opinion refusing to put the law on hold, reaffirming the D.C. Board of Elections, the city’s superior court and its court of appeals rulings, all of which previously rejected opponent’s request for a referendum.

The elections board has refused to put gay marriage on the ballot, ruling it would violate the city’s Human Rights Act, designed to protect gays and lesbians and other minority groups from discrimination.

Roberts said the Supreme Court’s practice has been to defer to local court decisions on District of Columbia matters of exclusive local concern and said he saw no reason for the Supreme Court to step into such a local matter involving the referendum process.

In a three-page opinion, Roberts said that emergency action isn’t warranted in part because Congress chose not to block the marriage measure during the 30-day review period that applies to new laws in the nation’s capital.

The D.C. Council, the city’s legislative body, voted to legalize gay marriage in December.

D.C. gay couples can begin applying for marriage licenses tomorrow. Pursuant to District law, couples must wait three business days before the marriage license is issued, so expect to see the first gay unions in D.C. officiated on Tuesday, March 9.

The Distirct of Columbia will become the sixth jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage, joining Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire.

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