Citation653 A.2d 307
Decision Date19 January 1995
Docket NumberNo. 92-CV-737,92-CV-737
PartiesCraig Robert DEAN and Patrick Gerard Gill, Appellants, v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Appellees.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Columbia District


William N. Eskridge, Jr., Georgetown University Law Center, with whom Craig Robert Dean, Washington, DC, was on the brief, for appellants.

James C. McKay, Jr., Asst. Corp. Counsel, with whom John Payton, Corp. Counsel at the time the brief was filed, and Charles L. Reischel, Deputy Corp. Counsel, Washington, DC, were on the brief, for appellee.

Laura A. Foggan, with whom Richard A. Gross, Washington, DC, was on the brief, for amicae curiae Elizabeth A. Leader and Barbara R. Lewis.

Arthur B. Spitzer, W. Stephen Smith, and Micki M. Chen, Washington, DC, filed an amicus curiae brief for the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nat. Capital Area, on behalf of appellants.

Evan Wolfson and A. Christopher Wieber, New York City, filed an amicus curiae brief for Lambda Legal Defense and Educ. Fund, Inc., on behalf of appellants.

Before FERREN, TERRY, and STEADMAN, Associate Judges.


The judgment of the trial court is affirmed pursuant to Parts I., II., III., and V. of Judge FERREN'S opinion and the concurring opinions of Judges TERRY and STEADMAN.

                INTRODUCTION                                             309
                  I. PROCEEDINGS TO DATE                                 309
                 II. THE MARRIAGE STATUTE CLAIM                          310
                     A. Legislative History of the Marriage Statute      310
                     B. Statutory Definition of "Marriage"               312
                     C. The Marriage Statute as Part of a Larger
                          Legislative Scheme, Including the Divorce
                          Statute                                        314
                     D. The Traditional Understanding of "Marriage"      315
                     E. Case Law from Other Jurisdictions                315
                     F. The Anti-Sex Discriminatory Language Act of 1976 316
                     G. The 1982 Gender Rule of Construction             317
                III. THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT CLAIM                          318
                          PREREQUISITES                                  320
                     A. Whether Constitutional Issues Have Been
                          Properly Raised                                320
                     B. Standard of Review                               321
                     C. Relevance of the Distinction Between
                          "Adjudicative Facts" and "Legislative Facts"   322
                        1. In General                                    322
                        2. "Adjudicative" and "Legislative" Facts
                           Distinguished                                 323
                        3. Judicial Process of Legislative Fact-Finding  326
                      "FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT"?                               331
                     A. Definition of "Fundamental Right"                331
                     B. Appellants' Due Process Claim                    332
                      "QUASI-SUSPECT" CLASS?                             333
                     A. The Trial Court's Ruling                         333
                     B. Introduction: Discrimination and Equal
                          Protection of the Laws                         334
                     C. The Attributes of Marriage Justifying an Equal
                          Protection Inquiry                             335
                     D. Summary Judgment for Appellants Inappropriate
                          Assuming, for the Sake of Argument, That the
                          Rational Basis Test Applies                    336
                     E. Summary Judgment for the District Inappropriate
                          Assuming, for the Sake of Argument, that Strict
                          Scrutiny Applies                               337
                     F. Constitutionally Protected Classes: United
                          States v. Carolene Products Co
                     G. Equal Protection After Carolene Products Co
                          "Suspect" and "Quasi-Suspect" Classes          338
                     H. The Implications, If Any, of Bowers v. Hardwick
                          for Equal Protection Analysis                  340
                     I. The Factors Applicable to Determining "Suspect"
                          and "Quasi-Suspect" Class Status               344
                        1. History of Purposeful Discrimination          344
                        2. Deep-Seated Prejudice Causing Inaccurate
                            Stereotypes That Do Not Reflect Class
                            Members' Abilities                           345
                        3. Immutability                                  346
                        4. Political Powerlessness                       349
                     J. Whether Homosexuals Comprise a "Suspect" or
                          "Quasi-Suspect" Class                          351
                        1. Three Easily Applied Factors                  351
                        2. Immutability                                  351
                        3. The Prevention/Immutability Distinction       352
                     K. Whether the District Has a "Substantial" or
                          "Compelling" State Interest in Barring
                          Same-Sex Marriage                              355
                     L. Proposed Disposition: Reversal and Remand for
                          Trial                                          356
                      PROTECTION                                         359

FERREN, Associate Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part:

Plaintiff-appellants, two homosexual men, want to marry each other. They appeal from the trial court's order granting summary judgment for the District of Columbia, rejecting their complaint for an injunction to require the Clerk of the Superior Court to issue them a marriage license. Appellants contend the trial court erred in three respects: (1) ruling that the District of Columbia marriage statute, D.C.Code §§ 30-101 to -121 (1993), prohibits the Clerk from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples; (2) ruling that the Clerk did not unlawfully discriminate against appellants under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C.Code §§ 1-2501 to -2557 (1992), by refusing to issue them a marriage license; and (3) interpreting the marriage statute in a way that unconstitutionally deprives same-sex couples of the right to marry.

We find no statutory violation or denial of due process, but, unlike the majority, I believe there are genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment on appellants' constitutional claim that they have been denied equal protection of the laws. Specifically, I conclude that a trial is required to determine whether same-sex couples comprise a "suspect" or a "quasi-suspect" class entitled either to "strict" or to "intermediate" scrutiny of governmental discrimination against them — in this case denial of the right to marry. Furthermore, if, as a result of the trial, the court decides that same-sex couples do comprise such a protected class, the trial will also be needed to determine whether the District, despite such constitutionally protected status for same-sex couples, has a "compelling," or at least a "substantial," governmental interest in keeping the marriage limitation to heterosexual couples as is. If it does, the District would prevail, otherwise not.

Recognition that homosexuals — like racial minorities and women — are entitled to special constitutional protection, therefore, would not necessarily mean that homosexuals are constitutionally entitled to marry one another; not all governmental discrimination against constitutionally protected groups is forbidden. But I do not believe that this court can properly conclude at this point — as a matter of law without benefit of a trial — that appellants have failed to proffer an equal protection claim. Accordingly, unlike my colleagues, who dispose of the matter summarily, I would reverse and remand this case for trial on the equal protection issue.


On November 13, 1990, appellants Craig Robert Dean and Robert Gerard Gill applied for a marriage license from the Clerk of the Superior Court, as required by D.C.Code § 30-110. The Clerk, acting as head of the Marriage License Bureau, denied their application, explaining his action in a memorandum to the Director of the court's Family Division:

Title 30-110 of the District of Columbia Code authorizes the Clerk of the Court to grant or deny applications for marriage licenses.

The sections of the District of Columbia Code governing marriages do not authorize marriage between persons of the same sex. Therefore the application for a marriage license in this case is respectfully denied.

Appellants filed an action in Superior Court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the Clerk to issue them a marriage license. In their amended complaint, appellants alleged that they qualified for the license because the marriage statute, D.C.Code §§ 30-101 to -121, is "gender-neutral" and, further, because the Clerk, by refusing to issue the license, had discriminated against them on grounds of sex or sexual orientation, in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C.Code §§ 1-2501 to -2557.

The District moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim for relief. Judge Bowers granted summary judgment for the District. He explained that all definitional sources for "marriage" — the legislative history of the Marriage and Divorce Act, D.C.Law 1-107, 1977 D.C. Stat. 114; the various references togender in relevant provisions of the District of Columbia Code; the common law of the District of Columbia; decisions of appellate courts in other states; references to marriage in the Bible; and dictionary definitions of "marriage" — show that marriage inherently requires one male and one female participant. Furthermore, according to Judge Bowers, the "City Council consciously chose not to make the language of the Human Rights Act applicable to the regulation of the marital relationship." He drew that...

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