Talk about a marriage equality photo op. With same-sex marriage on its way to being legal in Washington, D.C., could a Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank, or Jared Polis wedding be in the cards?
All three members of Congress have partners, though Frank has long had the option to marry, since his home state of Massachusetts extended marriage equality in 2004. While Washington, D.C., doesn’t have residency requirements for marriage licenses, Baldwin’s and Polis’s home states (Wisconsin and Colorado, respectively) don’t recognize gay marriages performed in other jurisdictions. But many members of Congress have gay staffers who live in D.C., and at least one congressional aide has made a nuptial announcement: “[Polis’s] chief of staff, Brian Branton, and his partner of 14 years, Ben Stearn, plan to get married in D.C.,” says Lara Cottingham, Polis’s communications director.
Cathy Renna of Renna Communications, a D.C.-based public relations firm, believes that marriage equality in Washington will lead to greater acceptance among conservative lawmakers. “Everyone who lives in the district, whether they’re a plumber or a congressman, will have the opportunity to meet people who are gay and legally married,” Renna says. “I can meet a senator and introduce my wife. [Marriage equality] is no longer an abstract idea. It’s real, and that can’t help but make a difference.”
Frank is less hopeful the move will change minds, saying most conservative members of Congress base antigay votes on political, not personal considerations. He’s optimistic about the marriage law in another way: “I’m very confident we’ll be able to protect [D.C.’s new law] from congressional override.” As of press time, Congress was in the midst of a 30-day window to approve or reject the city’s marriage legislation, but Frank says he has been assured by Rep. José Serrano, who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the district, that the law will stand.