Same-sex couples in the District could be saying “I do” within three months, after the D.C. Council's final vote Tuesday to legalize gay marriage.
At-large Councilman David Catania's marriage equality bill passed 11-2, with Councilman Marion Barry, D-Ward 8, and Councilwoman Yvette Alexander, D-Ward 7, casting the “no” votes.
The pair also voted no on the bill on Dec. 1 on behalf of their mostly black religious constituents, despite previously supporting some gay rights legislation.
“I don't want their service to the [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered] community to be judged on this one vote,” the openly gay Catania said.
The bill will now make its way to the desk of Mayor Adrian Fenty, who has promised to sign it, then to Congress for a 30-day legislative period during which it can be rejected. Lawmakers on the Hill have overturned only three of the city's measures in the past 25 years.
If Congress allows the bill to become law, wedding bells could be chiming for District gay couples by early March.
Where gay marriage is legal
New Hampshire, as of Jan. 1
D.C. and New York recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere.
Still, members of the city's religious community are determined to reverse the measure. They plan to lobby on the Hill to have the council vote overturned and have appealed to the Superior Court the city's decision to reject their ballot initiative to let voters decide the gay marriage issue.
“I think we'll eventually get the right to vote [on same-sex marriage] like in California and Maine,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, who is leading the appeal effort. Referendums in those two states overturned legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry.
“What was done [Tuesday] is just a battle in the war,” Jackson said. “The war is not over.”
Gay marriage backers, too, acknowledged there was work ahead.
“The fight will continue, and we will have to be vigilant,” Councilman Tommy Wells, D-Ward 6, said before casting his vote in favor of the measure.
Gay rights activist Peter Rosenstein echoed Wells' call to remain watchful, warning that Congress' 2010 appropriations bill could contain riders that punish the city for legalizing gay marriage. He said gay rights advocates would focus on securing support on the Hill.
If the bill becomes law, D.C. will join five states in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.