Gay marriage bill passes council

The D.C. Council voted 11-2 in favor of a same-sex marriage bill Tuesday morning, bringing the District one step closer to marriage equality.

Tuesday’s decision was the first of two votes on the issue, with the second expected Dec. 15. All bills before the council require two votes by full membership and approval from the mayor and the U.S. Congress before becoming law.

“I’m elated,” said Michael Komo, the president of GW’s gay rights advocacy group, Allied in Pride. “I think it’s a very historic vote. It’s a very historic date.”

Mayor Adrian Fenty, who supports the legislation, has promised to sign the bill. Congress, which has authority over D.C. law, will have 30 legislative days from the time of Fenty’s signature to enact a joint resolution of disapproval, which would also require President Barack Obama’s signature. Congress could also attach an anti-gay marriage rider to another piece of legislation to block the D.C. vote. If they don’t kill the measure, it will become law.

A few states across the nation allow same-sex marriage, including Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, and Connecticut. New Hampshire will join them Jan. 1. The passage of the legislation would make D.C. the first jurisdiction below the Mason-Dixon line to allow full civil equality for gays and lesbians.

“I think it will get as far as Mayor Fenty,” said senior Amanda Formica, who attended marriage equality protests in 2004 in her home state of Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is already legalized. “Will it get past Congress? I’m not sure.”

The bill has faced sharp criticism from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, however, which said in a statement that it would discontinue some of its social service programs, including those for poor and homeless, if the bill was passed.

College Republicans chairman Brandon Hines said in an e-mail that the council should focus on other issues like “fixing failing schools, urban poverty, violent crime, and its 11.6 percent unemployment rate.”

Openly gay councilmember David Catania sponsored the bill.

Before voting, the council heard two days of public testimony by witnesses, including senior legal advisers, religious leaders and members of GW College Democrats.

“I think it’s remarkable that literally a dozen members of the GW College Democrats went down together and testified before the D.C. City Council,” said Peter Weiss, president of the College Democrats. “I’m extremely proud of the College Democrats and I think they definitely had a hand in making sure that bill passed.”

Weiss said he personally knows students with same-sex partners who would benefit from the law.

Allied in Pride, which has worked with various marriage groups in D.C., plans to continue its efforts across the District and to push for change across the nation.

“I think it’s very significant that the capital of the United States of America is ready for marriage equality,” said Komo. “I think that sends a strong signal to both the country and the world that the time for marriage equality is here and it’s not going to stop any time soon.”

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