- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Same-sex marriages could be performed in the District by early next year after a landmark vote Tuesday by the D.C. Council to make the city the sixth jurisdiction in the United States to legalize such unions.

The bill, which passed the 13-member council on an 11-2 vote, faces a second council vote Dec. 15, when it will almost certainly be approved. D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has pledged to sign the legislation, which would take effect after a mandatory 30-day congressional review period.

If approved, the District will join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont in performing same-sex marriages. New Hampshire will begin performing them in January.

“I don’t think it’s a giant step; it’s a final step,” said council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat. “This is a civil right.”

The District currently recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Assuming the bill proceeds in a timely manner, same-sex marriage ceremonies could be performed in the city as early as late January, said an aide to Mr. Mendelson, whose council committee was charged with vetting the bill.

The legislation redefines marriage in the District as “the legally recognized union of two people” who meet the eligibility requirements “regardless of gender.”

Under the bill, religious officials may choose whether they perform same-sex marriage ceremonies but are not required to if doing so would contradict their faith.

Council members Yvette Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, and Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, cast the two dissenting votes. Both have cited the will of their overwhelmingly black constituencies as the reason for their opposition.

Mr. Barry pointed to his record as a civil rights leader and said he has supported the gay community on many issues but could not vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

“This community is deeply divided on this issue. And it to some extent cuts across racial lines, unfortunately,” Mr. Barry said. “It’s not fair to make this one issue a litmus test as to one’s commitment to human rights - to justice.”

Other opponents of the measure say they are girding for a fight that could take them into next year and into the next session of Congress.

Bishop Harry Jackson, head of Stand for Marriage DC, said his organization is considering all legal options to strike down same-sex marriage.

“I won’t take anything off the table at this time,” Mr. Jackson said after the vote Tuesday. “We’re not beyond any technique as long as it’s legal.”

Mr. Jackson declined to elaborate on what tactics he would use, saying only that he is speaking with members of Congress to try to enlist Republicans and moderate Democrats to discuss a strategy to thwart the bill during the 30-day review period.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce, Postal Service and District of Columbia, said the group in Congress that opposes gay marriage will not give up easily, despite the fact that a resolution opposing the measure has little hope of making it to the president’s desk.

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