As gay couples applied for marriage licenses in the nation’s capital Wednesday, congressional Republicans came under fire, including from their own ranks, for not doing more to block implementation of the District’s same-sex marriage law.
“Weak and uncoordinated” were the adjectives Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, used to describe his party’s efforts.
Mr. Chaffetz, a member of a House subcommittee that oversees the District’s operations, was congressional Republicans’ de facto spokesman on attempts to overturn the law. He said that the D.C. Defense of Marriage Act (H.R. 2608), which was introduced in May after the D.C. Council voted to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere, should have received more than 63 co-sponsors.
“It’s a little disappointing,” he added, “that more wasn’t done.”
• Gay couples line up for licenses to wed
• Congress slowly loosens grip on D.C.
Outside social conservatives echoed Mr. Chaffetz’s comments about Capitol Hill Republicans.
“I’ll be straight with you: I think they could have done more,” Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, said of Republican leaders. “We needed a vote, and we didn’t get one.”
Like other social conservatives contacted by The Washington Times, Mr. Brown expected Republicans to secure a vote in Congress that would delay implementation of the D.C. gay-marriage measure and pursue a ballot initiative to overturn the law. The fact that the Republicans failed to deliver was laid at the feet of many people.
In particular, Senate Republicans were blamed.
Last month, Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, introduced legislation to rescind the D.C. Council’s Dec. 1 vote legalizing gay marriage and to put the issue before District voters in a citywide initiative. His bill (S.2980) attracted eight co-sponsors.
“I haven’t seen any effort by Senator Bennett to push the legislation, or by the Senate [Republican] leadership,” said Tom McClusky, senior vice president of the Family Research Council Action.
Attempts to get comment from Mr. Bennett’s office were unsuccessful.
Mr. McClusky and Mr. Brown said Senate Republicans should have used a parliamentary maneuver called Rule 14, which allows a bill to get a floor vote by the whole U.S. Senate without going through the cumbersome and time-consuming committee process.
“I think it would have been a natural to allow an up-or-down vote,” Mr. McClusky added. “And yet I didn’t see any action.”
Despite their disappointment, social conservative leaders did not blame only congressional Republicans. They said that Congress failed to block the D.C. law due to a variety of factors. Among those cited were the intransigence of congressional Democratic leaders, the narrow 30-day period in which the bill’s opponents could seek to defeat the measure, and the dominance of the health care debate in Washington.
However, social conservative leaders disagreed about the significance of the party’s failure to block gay marriage in the District.
William Donohue, the president of the New-York based Catholic League, questioned the party’s commitment to a traditional marriage agenda. “They have an inarticulateness about homosexuality that they don’t have on economic issues,” Mr. Donohue said. “They can talk on and on about the free market, but when it comes to gays, they’re jittery.”
Mr. Brown and Mr. McClusky said that homosexual interest groups and congressional Democratic leaders were bigger concerns of theirs.
Like them, Mr. Chaffetz believes that the District law might be overturned some day, as California’s was in 2008. “It’s still not over. We’ll press on … and if [Republicans] get a majority in the House this fall, I expect we’ll get a vote.”