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
“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.