Hearings on District of Columbia Councilman David Catania's (I-At Large) gay marriage bill get underway Monday.

The bill, titled the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Amendment Act of 2009, would change the definition of marriage to say that “marriage is the legally recognized union of two people” and “any person who otherwise meets the eligibility requirements … may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender.”

The District currently recognizes gay marriages performed outside its borders.

Hundreds of people are expected to testify before the Committee on Public Safety & Judiciary, an event that is expected to last several days.

Two of the District's most ardent opponents of gay nuptials, the Archdiocese of Washington and Bishop Harry Jackson, are expected to testify against the measure.

Jackson and his allies continue to pursue a ballot initiative that would ban gay marriage in the District. The one sentence initiative says, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in the District of Columbia.”

Proponents of the measure include gay rights and civil liberty groups. A final vote may come as early as December.

Two additional states – New York and New Jersey – say they will move on gay marriage legislation before the end of the year. And Maine voters will consider whether to affirm a gay marriage law approved by lawmakers in the spring on November 3.