- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2009

UPDATED:

The D.C. Council on Tuesday gave final approval to legislation recognizing same-sex marriage in the city, sending the proposal to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and creating a litmus test for a future bill that would permit gay marriages to be performed in the nation’s capital.

The council’s 12-1 vote came in front of a packed chamber and coincided with a rally and protest against the measure across the street from city hall. Supporters in the chamber applauded when the measure passed. Some opponents objected, shouting “Off the council!” and pledged political retribution for members who supported the measure.

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

Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, Democrat, briefly suspended the session until order was restored by security guards and Metropolitan Police Department officers.

Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat who offered the amendment that would recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere in the country, called the issue one of “fundamental fairness.”

Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent and one of two openly gay members on the council, said: “Many of you are taking positions that are not comfortable or easy, and I appreciate that. But it is the right thing to do on behalf of all our families, because we will be stronger when we are all equal.”

Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat who was absent but said his staff signed onto the measure during its initial approval last month, was the lone dissenter Tuesday. The former mayor cited his record of supporting gay rights and said he prayed and agonized over his decision before making it.

“I feel comfortable with this position because I know where my heart is,” he said. “I know where my history is.”

As the council prepared to vote, roughly 75 area pastors and residents opposing same-sex marriage gathered across the street from city hall, in Freedom Plaza.

Pastor Terry Wayne Millender of Victory Life Church in Alexandria said his congregation includes D.C. residents and that he attended the rally to oppose the council’s official sanctioning of same-sex marriage.

“Gay activists are suggesting we’re here to shut down their right to live a homosexual lifestyle,” he said. “That’s not the deal. But don’t project your lifestyle and desire to live out a homosexual lifestyle through legislation on my grandchildren.”

D.C. resident Carol Fillmore of Northwest objected to the council making the decision to recognize gay unions, instead of bringing the issue to a citywide vote.

“The Bible says ‘man and woman,’ not ‘woman-woman,’ ‘man-man,’ ” said Ms. Fillmore, 62.

Supporters of the bill also gathered on the steps of city hall and attended the hearing. Dupont Circle resident Ed Grandis, who in July married his partner, Juan D. Campos Rondon, in California, said the issue was one of equal protection by the government, similar to the protections afforded for religious freedom.

“It really works as a balance,” he said. “Let them fight it.”

Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, is expected to sign the measure, which then will be sent to Capitol Hill, where Congress has oversight over city legislation. To block a D.C. law, members of Congress must enact a joint resolution disapproving the council act during a 30-day review period while members are in session, and the president must approve the resolution.

The review period will serve as a key test for the council’s plans to consider a measure authorizing gay marriages to be performed in the city. Mr. Catania has said he plans to gauge Congress’ reaction to the recognition measure before introducing the marriage legislation.

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