Civil Rights

Washington DC Recognizes Same Sex Marriages

The District of Columbia now recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere under a new law that took effect July 7, 2009. The new law gives marital status to gay and lesbian couples who were legally married in other states and countries.

Currently, same-sex marriages are permitted in six states - Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. Like DC, New York recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

The DC Council approved the marriage recognition law in May. Congress then let a 30-day review period expire without acting on the measure. Opponents wanted a referendum against the law, but it was rejected because it violates DC's Human Rights Act. A DC Superior Court upheld the Election Board's decision and denied an injunction to block the law from taking effect.

Effect of Same-Sex Marriage Recognition Law?

The new law gives married same-sex couples the same benefits, rights, and responsibilities that are given to married heterosexual couples under DC laws. Everything from inheritance rights, tax filings, insurance coverage, and employee benefits to joint bank accounts, hospital visitation and dry cleaning discounts may be affected.

Supporters of the law say it's an important step in achieving equality for same-sex partners. Many DC same-sex couples say that beyond the financial and legal benefits of the new law, great personal satisfaction comes from living in a place where their committed family relationship is acknowledged and respected.

Questions for Your Lawyer

  • Are same-sex marriages legally valid in my state?
  • What other laws work to protect the rights of same-sex couples?
  • How can gay couples protect their rights with legal documents--such as co-habitation and domestic partnership agreements, healthcare proxies, and powers of attorney?

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