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Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of DC Same-Sex Marriage Law

24 November 2010
Mayer Brown Article

On May 5, 2009, the Council of the District of Columbia passed a law recognizing same-sex marriages entered into in other jurisdictions.  In response, citizens filed the Marriage Initiative of 2009 – defining marriage as between one man and one woman – in an attempt to overturn the law.  The D.C. Board of Elections rejected the initiative on the grounds that it would have the effect of authorizing discrimination prohibited under the Human Rights Act.  Citizens then brought action against the Board, seeking an order to certify the initiative and allow it to be placed on the ballot.

Mayer Brown filed an amicus brief on behalf of the American Psychoanalytic Association and the National Association of Social Workers in the case, heard as Jackson v. District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics (No. 10-CV-20).  The case was argued en banc on appeal from a grant of summary judgment by the District of Columbia Superior Court rejecting the Marriage Initiative.    On July 15, 2010, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued a 5-4 decision in favor of the Board.  Judge Thompson, in her majority opinion, wrote that the proposed initiative seeking to define marriage as between one man and one woman would have effectively authorized discrimination in violation of the Human Rights Act and that the Board was not required to allow such initiatives to be put to voters.

Mayer Brown argued that the proposed initiative would relegate gay men and women to an inferior legal status, and provided a wide array of social science research and analysis demonstrating such an effect and its negative impact on the mental health and social standing of the affected groups and their families.  We argued that the singling out of gay and lesbian individuals would invite public discrimination, as well as prevent gay and lesbian individuals from experiencing the social, psychological, and health benefits provided by the institution of marriage.  Partner Miriam Nemetz and former associate Jasmin Sethi of the Washington, D.C. office collaborated in drafting the brief.

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