City leaders in the District of
Columbia are expected to approve a gay marriage bill when they meet
Tuesday's vote is the last stop on a
long journey to legal gay marriage in the District that began last
spring with passage of a gay-marriage recognition law. The bill's
long incubation period has thoroughly aired out detractors'
grievances, leaving little room for surprises.
Still, backers are preparing a large
rally on Monday.
The show of support is being organized
by the Campaign for All DC Families, DC
Clergy United and the Human
Rights Campaign, the nation's largest advocate for gay rights.
Supporters are expected to gather at 7PM for two hours at the Kennedy
Whether city leaders approve Council
member David Catania's gay marriage bill is not up for debate; it
will. At a December 1 first reading of the bill, only 2 councilors
opposed the legislation: Yvette Alexander and Marion Barry, the
District's former mayor. The remaining 11 members voted in favor of
Yet, obstacles remain. The most
immediate is whether Congress – which has final say on laws
approved in the District – will move against the bill. Lawmakers
have 30 days to respond.
Longtime community activist Bob King
believes Congress should act against the bill. He told media sources
last week that at least 6 members of Congress have agreed to speak
with him on the issue. King appears to be targeting pro-gay rights
lawmakers, including Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and New Mexico
Representative Martin Heinrich. Both men have publicly announced
their support for gay marriage.
King is also a member of
Stand4Marriage.com, the conservative Christian group founded in the
spring by Bishop Harry Jackson, minister at the Hope Christian Church
in Beltsville, Maryland.
Jackson has become the face of the
anti-gay marriage movement in the District. His group is suing 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
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.
Should Congress decide to ignore the
issue, gay couples in the District might be reserving wedding chapels
as early as January 15.