The D.C. Council overwhelmingly voted Tuesday in favor of legislation recognizing gay marriages from other states -- a move city lawmakers lauded as a step toward legalizing such marriages in the city.
"This is the march toward human rights and equality," said Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent. "And that march is coming here."
If signed into law, the bill will allow gay D.C. couples to marry in one of four states that allow such marriages, then return to the District and have the marriage recognized under city law.
The 13-member council gave preliminary approval to the bill on the same day Vermont became the fourth state to legalize same-sex unions. The Vermont legislature voted to override the governor's veto and allow gay marriages.
The D.C. legislation faces final approval by the council next month, then it must be reviewed by Congress, which has final say over most city laws.
The three other states that approve same-sex marriages are Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa.
Mr. Catania, who is gay, said he expected no opposition from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Democrat.
"Today was the right day to move forward on this issue given what has happened" in Vermont, Mr. Catania also said.
Fenty spokeswoman Leslie Kershaw said the mayor is reviewing the legislation.
The D.C. Council voted 12-0 in favor of the amendment to a bill introduced by Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat.
Members also approved legislation that recognizes relationships that are similar to domestic partnerships in the District and have all "the rights and responsibilities of marriage" in another jurisdiction.
Another provision in the legislation allows the mayor to certify as domestic partnerships relationships in the District that fall short of marriage.
Council member Jim Graham, who is gay, said the council did the "right thing" and that he was not concerned by the possibility that Congress could intervene.
"My job here to vote my conscience," said Mr. Graham, Ward One Democrat. "They should do their job as they see fit."
New Jersey and New Hampshire also recognize civil unions.
Last week, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that not permitting gay marriage in the state was unconstitutional.
Last fall, California voters reversed a court decision that legalized gay marriage when they approved a referendum known as Proposition 8.
The District passed a law in 1992 that allowed same-sex couples to register as domestic partners. But Congress prohibited the city from spending any of its own funds to implement the law, until the ban was finally lifted in fiscal 2002.
The recognition entitles domestic partners to benefits that can include health insurance coverage and mutual visitation rights in hospitals and nursing homes, and generally equates a domestic partner with a spouse in sections of city law.
New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Washington are among at least six states that have same-sex marriage measures pending in their General Assemblies. However, none is expected to pass.