400 Gather to Support D.C. Marriage
More than 400 supporters of marriage equality rallied on the evening of Dec. 14 in the nation's capital. The rally was organized by a number of groups, among them DC Clergy for Marriage Equality, DC for Marriage, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Campaign for All DC Families.
On Dec. 1, The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, which proposes extending marriage equality to all families in the District of Columbia, passed the Washington, D.C. city council by a margin of 11-2. A second vote on the measure is scheduled for Dec. 15, and is expected to pass by a similarly large margin.
Openly gay Councilmember Jim Graham, a Ward 1 Democrat, said on Dec. 1, "Today we take the rightful position ... in taking the next step in terms of declaring marriage equality in this city."
One of the two no votes came from Councilmember Marion Barry, who called the issue a "litmus test" and denounced marriage equality for gay and lesbian families, saying that the civil right of marriage is "the most sacred act in the Christian religion, a covenant between two individuals and their God ... and the state."
Another council member, Phil Medelson, adopted a similar line in arguing against a demand by the Catholic Church to be permitted not to acknowledge married gays and lesbians. Said Mendelson, "Marriage is not just about two individuals who want to be able to marry. It requires that every third party will recognize that couple as being married. And so the exemptions [requested by the church] are a very troublesome slope to tread upon because it undoes what we're trying to do here, which is to establish equality in the law and to say that people regardless of sexual orientation can be married."
The Catholic Church has threatened to withdraw its support for charitable programs run by the city if it is required to observe the new law.
The mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian Fenty, is expected to sign the bill. Before that can happen, Congress will have 30 working days to review the measure, but it is not anticipated that federal lawmakers will attempt to interfere in the bill's passage.
A press release about the Dec. 14 rally said that council members Harry Thomas and David Catania spoke to marriage supporters, with Catania offering his praise to the two dissenting council members, Barry and Yvette Alexander. "I want to thank the two who are not with us," said Catania. "Not because they are not with us now. But because they have been with us so often on so many other issues."
One couple anticipating the day they might legally marry in the District were Clarence Brown and Terry McGuire, who also attended the rally. "In 50 years we'll look back and wonder why it didn't happen sooner," McGuire said. "And I am proud to call D.C. home and be a part of it."