Today, Adrian Fenty, the mayor of Washington DC, has signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in that city. The United States Congress has thirty days to overrule the law. If nothing happens, marriage equality will arrive in the United States’s capital on January 17, 2010.
The fact that the United States Congress has the authority to overrule the city results in two additional things worthy of note. First, at times in various states, it has been argued that since some states’ legislatures are debating pressing matters like the economy, there is no time to debate and legislate on less pressing issues. Surely the fact that the United States Senate is debating a health care bill, which is a pressing issue, would mean that there is no time to overrule Washington.
Second, there’s states’ rights. Although the District of Columbia is not a state, the principle behind states rights’— allowing national subdivisions to make their own decisions— is important. If you only support states’ rights when states do something you agree with, you are not really supporting states’ rights. You have to support states’ rights to pass laws you disagree with; otherwise, blathering about states’ rights when they do something you agree with is just vacuous rhetoric and blatant hypocrisy. One cannot be for states’ rights and at the same time support overruling the District of Columbia.