D.C. Council member David A. Catania on Tuesday introduced a long-awaited bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the District.
If the legislation is passed, the city would join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Iowa in performing the unions. New Hampshire is scheduled to begin performing same-sex marriages in 2010, while Maine voters will consider the issue in a ballot initiative in November.
D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has said he would sign the legislation if it is passed. The bill was co-introduced by 10 of the 13 council members, virtually assuring passage.
“There is no question that we are about to embark on an exciting journey here in the District, fulfilling a more perfect understanding of human rights and equality, which has long been a trademark of our city that I’m proud to call home,” said Mr. Catania, who is openly gay.
The at-large independent acknowledged when he introduced the bill the strong feelings that the issue has evoked. He said the bill affords protections to religious organizations so no church or member of the clergy would be required to perform or recognize a marriage that runs counter to their beliefs or teachings.
If passed, the measure would face a 30-day congressional review period during which members of Congress could attempt to block its implementation.
However, even opponents of the bill in Congress say the possibilities of intervention are slim.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican and ranking member of the subcommittee with oversight of most D.C. issues, told The Washington Times on Thursday that opponents face “an uphill battle at best.”
The Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement after the bill was introduced saying that the measure was an attempt to “redefine marriage.”
“We urge our elected officials to respect the purpose of marriage as the union of one man and one woman for their mutual benefit and for the rights of children,” the statement said.
According to 2008 data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 3,500 same-sex couples living in the District, although the data have a large margin of error.
Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, who is also openly gay, said he was proud to have the chance to vote in favor of the legislation.
“As an openly gay member of this council, who has gone in his own life through so many stages, it is just an incredible, historical and important moment for me to be associated with this bill and to promise you that I am going to vote yes at every stage of its consideration,” he said.
The council in May passed a bill recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. That law went into effect in July.
The only council member to oppose that legislation was Marion Barry.