D.C. votes to recognize gay marriages

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For a break-down of Tuesday’s vote, click here.

The D.C. Council Tuesday gave final approval to legislation recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions and paved the way for an effort to allow such unions to be performed in the nation’s capital - an effort one council member said could prompt “civil war” in the city.

A majority of the 13-member council likely would support gay marriages taking place in the District, a poll of council members and staffers by The Washington Times showed Tuesday. Six council members said they would vote for a gay-marriage bill, with two more saying they were likely to vote for such a bill. Five council members said they were undecided on the issue.

An overwhelming majority of 12 members voted Tuesday to recognize other states’ gay marriages, although the legislation still faces congressional review.

“As much as people don’t want to say it is, this was a vote on same-sex marriage” in the District, said Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat.

D.C. Council member Marion Barry, who told reporters after the vote that approving gay marriage could lead to civil war, said later that he was “just jiving” when he made the comment. But he said the issue will be contentious in the District, with its majority black population.

“I think it’s going to be divided along racial lines because the black community is so strongly against it,” said Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat. Socially conservative black voters played a key role in passing a November referendum in California that prohibited gay marriage in that state.

The divisiveness of the issue was evident in the council chamber, where the vote was greeted with applause by supporters. Opponents of the legislation also packed the room, and loudly pledged political retribution outside in the hallway for council members who voted in favor.

Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray suspended the session until order was restored by police officers and security guards, who kept a watchful eye as tensions escalated.

“Bottom line, they just kissed themselves goodbye,” said the Rev. Anthony Evans, an associate minister at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Northwest.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is expected to sign the recognition measure, which then will be sent to Capitol Hill, where Congress has oversight of city legislation. In order to block a D.C. law, members of Congress must enact a joint resolution disapproving the council act within 30 days, and the president must approve the resolution.

The review period will serve as a test for the council’s plans to consider a measure authorizing gay marriages to be performed in the city. Council member David A. Catania has said he plans to gauge Congress’ reaction to the recognition measure before he introduces the marriage legislation sometime later this year.

A senior Republican congressional aide told The Times that given the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, it is unlikely Congress would take “proactive measures” to block same-sex marriage measures in the District or elsewhere. Such an action “could spell trouble for red-state Democrats who are in cycle and uninterested in taking a position on this very contentious issue,” the aide said.

The Associated Press reported that Rep. Barney Frank, who is openly gay, said he expects congressional opponents of gay marriage to press Congress to roll back the city’s decision, but doubts they’ll get very far.

“For this to be overturned, it’d have to pass both houses and be signed by the president, and that’s highly unlikely,” said Mr. Frank, Massachusetts Democrat.

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