An openly gay former D.C. Parks and Recreation director has announced he will run for D.C. City Council in 2010, gay weekly the Washington Blade reported. His opponent, Phil Mendelson, is considered a strong gay rights ally, pitting gay camps against each other.

Clark Ray announced last week to supporters his candidacy for the at-large City Council seat currently held by three-term incumbent Mendelson.

“I'm a gay man and I'm proud of it,” Ray told the paper. “But I want to be a D.C. City Council member at-large for all residents of the District of Columbia, not just the GLBT community.”

As a strong advocate of gay rights, Mendelson has attracted a large following in the GLBT community.

“He wrote the marriage-recognition bill, a dozen domestic partnership bills and the groundbreaking parental rights bill,” longtime D.C. gay activist Bob Summersgill said.

“Other than personal loyalty and friendship, there is no reason to oppose Phil and every reason to support his re-election,” he added.

City Council approved a bill in May that recognizes gay marriages performed outside the district's borders, and several members say they will attempt a gay marriage bill in the fall. Councilman Marion Barry cast the only dissenting vote.

Supporters note that Mendelson testified in support of the bill during a D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics inquiry that ultimately voted down a proposed voter referendum on the gay marriage recognition bill, saying it would violate a local human rights law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Ray has acknowledged that Mendelson is a strong advocate of gay rights, but says his campaign will focus on other issues important to the gay community.

The forty-five-year-old has worked in public policy-related positions in the Clinton administration and headed the district's Parks & Recreation Department under Mayor Adrian Fenty. Earlier this year, however, Ray was fired by Fenty, who said he wanted a new direction for the department.

If elected, Ray would become the district's second openly gay councilman. David Catania was elected in 1997 as a Republican, but in 2004, saying he could no longer “rationalize” his association with the party, became an Independent.

CORRECTION: There are two openly gay men currently serving in the D.C. City Council. Councilman Jim Graham, 64, was first elected in 1998 and has won reelection three times since.