The initial vote to approve a gay marriage bill in the District of Columbia came with few surprises. As expected, the legislation was approved on a 11 to 2 vote Tuesday, with Council members Yvette Alexander and Marion Barry dissenting.

Openly gay Council member David Catania, who authored the bill, called passage an “important victory.”

“Gays and lesbians bear every burden of citizenship and are entitled to every benefit and protection that the law allows,” he said in a statement.

A final vote on the legislation is expected to take place on December 15. Barring action from Congress, which has final say on laws approved by the city, the soonest gay marriage could become legal is January 15.

Barry told the council that he is a strong supporter of gay rights on every issue but gay marriage.

“I stand here to declare, in no uncertain terms, my strong commitment to the gay and lesbian, transgender, and bisexual community on almost every issue but this one,” he said.

Opponents of the law say they're prepared to continue their fight in the courts and take it to Congress. Bishop Harry Jackson, a minister at the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, led the unsuccessful attempt to stop a gay marriage-recognition law approved by lawmakers in the spring from taking effect. His group is appealing to get a question prohibiting gay marriage on the ballot after the city's Ethics Board ruled such a measure would violate the city's Human Rights Act that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Jackson said he was talking with a “consortium” of lawmakers about voiding the law, but named only Representative Jason Chaffetz, a freshman Republican from Utah and a gay rights opponent.

Congressman Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois and a gay rights ally, hailed Tuesday's results.

“The struggle for equality has won a great victory in the shadow of our Capitol today,” Quigley said in a statement. “One-hundred and forty-eight years ago at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln asked Americans if we truly meant it when our founders wrote that all people are created equal. Today, the City Council reaffirmed the answer is still 'yes.'”

The gay marriage bill is also opposed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. While the bill would not require religious organizations to perform gay weddings, the church has threatened to shut off programs serving the poor and homeless if the city does not include an exclusion that would allow individuals, including private business owners, to refuse to provide goods and services related to the nuptials of gay couples. Gay activists accused the church of trying to “blackmail the city.”

Lawmakers, however, say they are open to a compromise that would keep the archdiocese's Catholic Charities as a city contractor.