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March 12, 2010

Wedding bells ring in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.--Wedding bells pealed across the capital after the city’s law allowing same-sex marriage took effect on March 3.

While protesters sang against the issuing of marriage licenses at the Superior Court building, counter-protesters roamed around looking for anti-gay voices to drown out with songs of their own.

Anti-gays were unsuccessful in their continuing attempts to block the law from taking effect. Repeated efforts to bring it before the voters were shot down by the District of Columbia elections board, which ruled repeatedly that ballot measures could not restrict civil rights.

City Council approved the legislation in December, then like all D.C. laws, it went to Congress for review, which was mostly quiet.

Harry R. Jackson, a Maryland clergyman who tried to bring a repeal to the ballot, made a last-ditch effort to delay the law from taking effect by appealing to the Supreme Court, but Chief Justice John Roberts rejected the request on March 2, the same day the law finished its congressional review period.

With a weekend and a required three-day waiting period between applying for marriage licenses and their issuance, the first weddings took place on March 9.

Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C. took extreme measures for the second time in a year, ending health care benefits for all employees’ spouses so they would not have to cover gay and lesbian ones. Last year, they closed their foster care program to avoid placing children with same-sex couples.

The nation’s capital joins Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa in allowing full same-sex marriage. Those laws immediately affect just over five percent of the population, according to a tally by Box Turtle Bulletin’s Timothy Kincaid.

He tabulated just under another 20 percent of the national population live in states that allow civil unions, broad domestic partnerships or some other construct that offer the vast majority of state benefits of marriage without carrying the name.

Taking into account states whose governments have said they will acknowledge same-sex marriages legal in other jurisdictions and local registries that carry some rights, roughly 46 percent of the United States population has some form of recognition of gay and lesbian relationships.

About seven percent of Ohioans live in Cleveland, Toledo or Cleveland Heights, which have domestic partner registries that confer no rights.

UCLA’s Williams Institute estimates that allowing same-sex marriages will bring the District of Columbia $5 million in tax revenue over the next three years and create 700 new jobs. They estimate 14,000 same-sex marriages in the district in that time period.

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