[D.C. Councilman David Catania (SFS ’90, LAW ’93) plans to introduce today a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage within the District of Columbia](http://www.thehoya.com/news/alum-introduce-dc-marriage-bill/). Ten of the 13 members of the D.C. Council will [co-introduce the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009](http://www.washblade.com/thelatest/thelatest.cfm?blog_id=27427), and it is expected to pass with ease. Mayor Adrian Fenty has already promised to sign the bill, should it pass through the council.

What should be the end of the story, however, is only the beginning of a long process to legalize gay marriage in the District.

The bill will then go to Congress, which may attempt to make an example of D.C. and contest the measure until its members are blue in the face. Congress will have 30 days to decide whether or not to overturn D.C.’s decision. If the bill remains untouched by the end of the 30-day period, it will become law.

Outside of the greater issue of legalizing same-sex marriage, there is a greater question concerning autonomy here. Congress has to worry about right now, especially in the midst of the health care debate; reviewing measures enacted by the democratically elected D.C. Council should not be a priority.

District residents elected the council members and the mayor, both of whom support the same-sex marriage bill. D.C.’s decision in favor of that bill thus represents the will of the people, in the same way any legislation enacted by Congress represents the will of the American people. Of course, issues surrounding D.C.’s autonomy are often discussed; but it is unacceptable for a senator from another state who opposes gay marriage to restrict D.C. residents’ ownership of a debate that only concerns them.

Whether Congress wants to admit it or not, District residents – close to 600,000 in number – ought to have elected representatives who have the final say in the way their city is governed. District residents have the right to enact their own laws and the right not to have regulations imposed on them by the representatives of states.

We ask Congress to think of the voice of the D.C. Council in this case. The interests of individual members of Congress should be put to the side in order to provide an accurate reflection of the D.C. Council’s vote on this issue. The District should be given the same path to independent decision-making on this issue that the legislatures of Vermont and Maine have been allowed.

We are not demanding a wholesale restructuring of the process by which Congress approves D.C. bills, but given the salience of this particular issue, Congress ought to approve the voices of D.C. elected representatives or wait 30 days for automatic approval of the bill.

If the issue at stake here is in fact whether or not members of Congress believe that same-sex marriage ought to be legal nationwide, they can and should debate this on the national level, on their own time. For now, Congress should respect the democratic process and allow the will of D.C. residents and their elected representatives to stand.

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