In Milestone Vote, House Rejects Attack on Lesbian and Gay Relationships

September 25, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — In a victory for basic fairness, the House of Representatives today defeated an effort to block implementation of Washington, D.C.’s domestic partnership law.

“This vote represents an important milestone in American history,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “This is the first time ever that Congress has rejected outright an attack on lesbian and gay relationships.”

The news from Congress was not all positive. After its historic vote on domestic partners, the House passed a disappointing measure that would prohibit the District of Columbia government from enforcing a decision of its civil rights board, which ordered reinstatement of two gay Boy Scout troop leaders.

The controversy over domestic partnerships began after the D.C. City Council adopted the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992, which was intended to allow city employees to purchase health insurance for their partners and would have given hospital visitation rights to other domestic partners in the city.

Later that year — and every year since then — Congress blocked the measure by voting to forbid the city from spending even its own tax money to implement the program.

This year, however, the House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment, offered by Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), to allow D.C. to use local funds for its domestic partner provision. An effort to restore the anti-gay provision was introduced on the House floor by Rep. Dave Weldon, R-FL, but it failed by a vote of 194 to 226 with 41 Republicans voting against the amendment and 18 Democrats in favor of it.

Today’s vote represents the first time in history that Congress has voted against a specific attack on same-sex relationships. The only other time that Congress has voted in favor of same-sex families also involved the District; in 1999, the House of Representatives voted against an attack on the adoption rights of same-sex couples here.

“Congress has taken an important first step on the path to full equality for same-sex couples,” Anders said.

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