Lawmakers in the District of Columbia have approved a gay marriage bill.

Passage of Council member David Catania's gay marriage bill came as little surprise. Today's vote mirrored a December 1 first reading of the bill where only two members disagreed with its passage: Yvette Alexander and Marion Barry, the District's former mayor. The remaining 11 members voted in favor of the bill.

“Today's vote is an important victory not only for the gay and lesbian community but for everyone who supports equal rights,” Catania, an Independent, told supporters.

Catania, one of two openly gay members on the council, has taken a measured approached to the issue, first introducing a gay marriage-recognition bill in the spring for the council to approve. The city's law recognizes marriages performed in the five states which have legalized the institution: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. New Hampshire's law takes effect January 1.

Mayor Adrian Fenty, a Democrat, has promise to sign the bill, though gay couples will have to wait 30 working days for Congress – which has final say on laws approved in the District – to respond.

Whether Congress moves against the legislation remains to be seen, but opponents of the measure have already vowed they will urge lawmakers to act against the bill.

Bishop Harry Jackson, a minister at the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, has become the face of the anti-gay marriage movement in the District, forming in the spring after councilors approved the gay marriage-recognition bill.

Jackson 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 orientation. And his group began lobbying members of Congress to oppose the measure last week.

Passage in the District might give efforts to approve a gay marriage bill in New Jersey a much needed boost. Enthusiasm for the bill appears to be on wane after senators in nearby New York killed a similar bill last month and voters in Maine “vetoed” a gay marriage law approved by lawmakers in the spring.

If Congress fails to intervene, the measure will likely take effect in mid-March.