D.C. Council recognizes same-sex marriages from other states

The debate and struggle over same-sex marriage has now come to Washington, D.C., in a major way.

 DC same-sex
The Rev. Dennis Wiley, co-pastor of
Covenant Baptist Church, speaks in support
of full marriage equality. Pictured to his left is
Covenant co-pastor Rev. Christine Wiley.

On May 5, the District of Columbia Council took their final vote and passed 12-to-1 a bill recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. The bill was subsequently signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty. Congress has veto power over all D.C. laws; if there is no veto by July 6, this bill will become law.

In an interview after the final vote, Mayor Fenty stated that he saw the legalization of same-sex marriage in D.C.’s future. David Catania, one of the two openly gay members of the D.C. Council, has said he will introduce a bill for full marriage equality later this year.

Those opposed to marriage equality have begun an effort to lobby Congress to veto the aforementioned bill, and have begun the process to put a referendum on the ballot to try to overturn that legislation if it does become law.

D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality has initiated a “Declaration of Religious Support for Marriage Equality” now signed by 135 members of the clergy or religious leaders who serve a religious institution in the District and/or who reside there. This group held a press conference June 2 to announce this effort at Covenant Baptist Church, a predominantly African-American church.

Those in support of marriage equality have used votes in the various institutions of the Democratic Party throughout the District to show a base of support and to use as leverage with D.C. Council members if a vote on marriage equality takes place.

It was the Ward 8 vote that received the most media attention and is considered the most significant, because it is the ward represented by D.C. councilmember and former mayor Marion Barry, who cast the sole vote opposing the bill recognizing out-of-state marriages. Barry stated that over two-thirds of his constituents are opposed to same-sex marriage. Despite this, the Ward 8 Democrats voted by a 2-to-1 ratio to support the resolution for full marriage equality, which is considered to be a setback for this argument.

In speaking in support of this resolution, Philip Pannell, a well-known activist in the Black LGBT community and the former president of the Ward 8 Democrats, stated: “It is impossible to be one-third or one-half free or equal. You are either free and equal or you are not.”

Efforts are continuing locally to show the broad base of support that exists for bringing full marriage equality to D.C.

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