The White House has issued the veto threat in response to an appropriations bill being considered by Congress.

The bill provides financial support for federal programmes, but does not include a longstanding Republican provision which states that federal funds should not be used to operate the District of Columbia domestic partnership registry.

Congress has the ultimate plenary power over the District of Columbia and its funding.

It has the right to review and overrule laws created locally.

The anti-gay provision was removed at the request of committee member and Democrat Congressman Jose Serrano and others.

“There are serious issues for the country to deal with, yet the President wants to focus on this,” Serrano said in a statement.

“This was a redundant provision that bashes the District of Columbia.

“There are no federal funds directed at the domestic partners registry. Its like putting out a statement that says that Jose Serrano is not a Republican.

“Yeah, we know that already. I took out this past provision because it is a bad statement that doesn’t bring people together, but tries to divide them instead.”

The District of Columbia established a local domestic partnership registry in 1992.

However, the Republican congressional leadership routinely prevented the registry from being enacted until 2002.

Since that time, the Republican-led Congress have repeatedly attached anti-gay language to past appropriations bills which stipulate that federal funds cannot be used to operate the programme.

Since local funds are used, observers have noted that the provision was simply used as a way for Republicans to demonstrate their disapproval for the law and for same-sex families.

The portion relating to the District of Columbia Appropriations Bill is below:

“The Administration supports the bill’s full funding of the President’s request for the school improvement programme, the resident tuition support program, and the Water and Sewer Authority. The Administration also supports the provision of needed funds for D.C. library improvements and reducing the backlog of unsolved murder cases in the District.

“The Administration strongly opposes the bill’s exclusion of a longstanding provision that disallows the use of Federal funds to register unmarried, cohabitating couples in the District, to enable them to qualify for benefits on the same basis as legally married couples.

“Under Federal law, legal marriage is the union between a man and a woman.

“Federal tax dollars are not used to extend employment benefits to domestic partners of Federal employees, and D.C. should not enjoy an exception to this rule.

“If the final version of the bill does not include this longstanding provision, the President’s senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill.

“The Administration also strongly opposes lifting the ban on funding for needle distribution programmes to illegal drug users in the District of Columbia. Needle distribution programmes facilitate illegal drug use.

“Drug use prevention and treatment programmes are superior public health alternatives because these programs reduce both the sharing of contaminated needles and the harms of illegal drug use.

Gay rights groups didn’t take kindly to the President’s threat, with Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese saying in a release:

“With his popularity at an all time low, this President has yet again dipped his cup into the well of anti-gay bigotry.

“He has issued a veto threat on funding for the District of Columbia because long-term, committed couples want to have such basic rights as visiting each other in the hospital and making medical decisions for their partner. The anti-gay zeal of this Administration has reached a new low.”

“It is unthinkable for the White House to threaten to veto an appropriations bill because it does not include anti-gay language,” added Jo Wyrick, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats.

“This registry, which is paid for with local funds, simply provides the documentation needed in order for families to purchase the most minimal private protections not afforded by the federal government to same-sex couples.

“This is a misleading veto threat designed to parrot the talking points of the anti-gay special interests which control and finance the Republican Party,” Wyrick added.

“President Bush would never threaten to withhold federal funds from California because it employs a domestic partnership registry. Yet, Republicans feel that the District of Columbia is their financial playground that they can use to bully local families at the pleasure of their anti-gay agenda. That is wrong.”

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