Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday denied a last-minute request by traditional marriage supporters to stop Washington, D.C.'s same-sex marriage law from taking effect.
As a "matter of judicial policy," Roberts said in an opinion that it has been the practice of the U.S. Supreme Court not to intervene in local matters.
The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, permitting same-sex couples to marry in the District of Columbia, went into effect Wednesday. Gay and lesbian couples began applying for marriage licenses with the D.C. Superior Court early morning.
The nation's capital is now the sixth U.S. jurisdiction where same-sex marriage is legal.
Opponents of the new law, which was passed in December, filed court papers with Roberts requesting for a stay in order to hold a referendum on the issue. They, including Washington, D.C.-based pastor Walter E. Fauntroy, argued that if the bill becomes law they would permanently lose any rise to pursue a referendum.
Though their argument has "some force," Roberts said a stay is not warranted. He noted that petitioners are also pursuing a ballot initiative, which would give D.C. voters a similar opportunity to repeal the marriage act after it becomes law.
The petition for a ballot initiative currently awaits consideration by the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Ministers throughout the district and other traditional marriage supporters have, for the past several months, adamantly argued for the people's right to vote on the issue of marriage. Same-sex marriage was legalized by Washington lawmakers.
In their ongoing fight, traditional marriage supporters rallied to either get Congress to overturn the measure or to have it placed on a city-wide ballot.
Congress, during its 30-day review period, did not act to overturn it.
While they continue to push for a ballot initiative, some ministers in the district have chosen to celebrate the new law.
Clergy at Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Georgetown said they will conduct same-sex weddings despite the denomination's ban against the practice.
"As a pastor, I am called to extend care and grace to all people even as Jesus did," said Rev. Mary Kay Totty, pastor of Dumbarton, in a statement Wednesday. "We celebrate love and loyalty wherever it is found."
Dumbarton's Church Council had voted last month to "honor and celebrate the wedding of any couple, licensed in the District of Columbia, who seek to commit their lives to one another in marriage."
No other Methodist congregation in Washington is sanctioning gay and lesbian weddings, according to Dumbarton.