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UPDATE: Marriage Bill Passes First Vote in D.C.

rsz_dcmarriage_ringsAs scheduled, on December 1st the D.C. Council voted in favor 11-2 for a bill that would allow for gay and lesbian couples to legally marry in The District of Columbia. This was the first time that the entire council voted on this bill.

The Washington Post reported:

After months of debate, the council passed the bill 11 to 2. It still must take a second vote in two weeks before the measure can go to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who has said he will sign it.

If the bill survives a required congressional review period, the District will join New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts in allowing same-sex marriage.

Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), one of two openly gay members of the council, said before the vote he thought it was a day that "would never come."

"It really speaks to the long and rich tradition of tolerance and acceptance that does make up the sense of place in the District of Columbia," said Catania, the chief sponsor of the bill.

Aisha Mills, President of the Campaign for All D.C. Families released the following statement about the council’s decision:

"Today we celebrate the District of Columbia City Council's initial vote to extend marriage equality to all residents. When passed this important law will provide gay and lesbian couples the securities and protections of marriage and create a stronger community for all of us.”

She added:

“Denying marriage protections to loving and committed couples here in the district, and elsewhere, puts them and their families in harm¹s way.  I would to thank the Council and all of the advocates for their work on this first step towards ensuring that gay and lesbian couples are able to make a lifelong commitment to take care of and be responsible for one another."

Later this month, the bill will be voted on again, and if it passes again, it will then be signed by Mayor Fenty and sent to Capitol Hill for Congressional review before becoming law.  If Congress does not overturn the bill, D.C. will join five other states that have legalized marriage for those in the LGBT community.

The good news is that it’s believed that a  majority of Congress will support this legislation.  Roll Call wrote:

While Congress has 30 legislative days to review it, Republicans are pessimistic about their chances of preventing its implementation. Overturning the bill directly is almost impossible; it has been almost 20 years since Congress last struck down a D.C. bill using a resolution of disapproval. More likely is an attempt to slip language in the city’s annual budget that would block the marriages. Such steps have been taken in the past. For example, for years Congress prevented the city from enacting a needle-exchange program by prohibiting funding for it.

However, Congressional leaders are likely to keep the gay marriage issue off the floor. In the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is a staunch supporter of D.C.’s right to manage its own affairs, making the chances of floor action slim.

“We can try to strike funding or use some other creative way to address the issue,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who has been outspoken about his opposition to the bill. “But it’s very difficult to deal with the 30-day time frame, especially given the fact that the Democrats have an iron grip on the process.”

GLAAD will continue to follow this story and add updates.