Whatever Happened To Self-Governance?

39 Congressional Republicans don’t believe that the people of the District of Columbia should be allowed to govern themselves:

In the filing, U.S. senators James Inhofe (Okla.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.) and 37 House Republicans align with Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church, in asking the court to reverse a D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics decision prohibiting the same-sex marriage question to be put before voters.

[Emphasis mine]

Last month the DC City Council voted 11-2 to legalize same-sex marriage.

The Republicans want DC to have a referendum on same-sex marriage. That probably wouldn’t result in the defeat of same-sex marriage considering that polls shows more than 2/3rds of DC in favor it.

But that’s not the point–the point is that constitutional rights should not be on the ballot. If we had put segregation on the ballot 60 years ago it would have passed in every single state in which it was practiced, even though it was both egregiously unconstitutional and morally reprehensible.

Same-sex marriage is a matter of constitutional rights–it’s a matter of the 14th amendment’s equal protection under the law.  The right-wing strategy of putting same-sex marriage on the ballot is designed to undermine the idea that same-sex marriage is a constitutional–not political–issue.

And aren’t Republicans supposed to be in favor of local governance? Since when do they want the federal government telling a city government what to do? I guess Republicans only prefer small government when it suits them–then again, we all knew the GOP’s principles are all pretty much negotiable, anyway.

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BREAKING: DC Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

The DC City Council just voted 11-2 to legalize same-sex marriage.

The council had previously voted in favor of this measure; today’s vote was the final hurdle that legislation needed to clear in order to pass.

Now the bill heads to the desk of Mayor Adrian Fenty, who has already said he will sign it into law.

After that there will be a 30-day Congressional review period–once that has passed, the measure will officially become law.

Our nation’s capital joins NH, CT, VT, MA, and IA in legalizing same-sex marriage.

BREAKING: DC Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Washington, DC’s city council just voted 11-2 to legalize same-sex marriage. DC previously established civil unions and voted to recognized same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Our nation’s capital now joins NH, CT, VT, MA, and IA in legalizing same-sex marriage.

The measure still has to pass another vote and be signed into law by Mayor Adrian Fenty, steps that are widely considered to be foregone conclusions.

No (More) Taxation Without Representation

Legislation granting the District of Columbia a voting member in the House of Representatives passed a cloture vote in the Senate today, 62 to 34. In order to preserve the current partisan balance of the House, the bill also gives another Representative to Utah, which just fell short of receiving an extra Representative in the last census.  Thus, the House of Representatives would expand to 437 members, the first such increase in more than 100 years.

Giving DC full voting rights is hugely important to our democracy.  Nearly 600,000 tax-paying American citizens live in the District of Columbia–a city more populous than the entire state of Wyoming–yet they only have a single non-voting delegate to speak for them in Congress.  Our nation was founded on the idea that citizens have the right to be represented in their government, and the legal status of DC has been a black stain on our democracy.

Some people are saying that giving DC a voting representative would be unconstitutional.  That’s right–they’re arguing that giving tax-paying American citizens representation in Congress violates the Constitution.  Needless to say, I find that somewhat counter-intuitive.

Let’s get down to the legal nitty-gritty: here’s what the Constitution says about House representation:

ARTICLE I.

SECTION 2.

CLAUSE 1: The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

So it’s saying that the House will be composed of members elected every other year by the citizens of the states. The sticking point here seems to be that DC isn’t a state, but I think the argument really comes down to what the word “member” means.

Right now, DC, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands elect non-voting delegates to the House. Are delegates members? Would they become members if they receive full voting rights? What determines who is or is not a member of the House of Representatives?

That distinction might be one that the courts have to draw, but ambiguity over the definition of “member” shouldn’t in and of itself disqualify this legislation.

Others opposed to this plan are pulling out the slippery-slope argument–they say that, if we grant DC voting rights, what’s to stop Puerto Rico or Guam or any other American territory from doing the same?

Well, what separates DC from the American territories is taxes–DC residents pay American federal taxes, while the inhabitants of American territories don’t. That’s why DC is entitled to Congressional representation–Congress determines how much DC residents pay in taxes, and “no taxation without representation” was the rallying cry that underlined the founding of our great nation.

The Rise Of A Future President

The Washington Post has a fantastic piece about the rise of Barack Obama.

There have been a lot of similar pieces written, but I feel like this one really stands out.  It’s only three pages, so give it a read while you’re waiting for the the festivities to begin.

The swearing-in ceremony will begin at 11:30, and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in first.  Then, close to noon–when power officially changes hands–President-elect Obama will be sworn in and give his inaugural address.  Shortly after, President Bush will depart from the Capitol via helicopter and Obama will attend an inauguration luncheon.