It has been months in the making―numerous rallies, hundreds of testimonies, a handful of committee votes―but today D.C. officials took a final stand. In an 11-2 vote, the D.C. City Council approved marriage for same-sex couples in the District of Columbia. The law will likely take effect around St. Patrick's Day 2010.
Congress has 30 working days to reject it, but that has only happened three times in 25 years. Many are confident that the bill will not face that fate.
Mayor Adrian Fenty has promised to sign the bill, which passed 11-2, and gay couples could begin marrying as early as March. Congress, which has final say over Washington's laws, could reject it, but Democratic leaders have suggested they are reluctant to do so.
The bill had overwhelming support among council members and was expected to pass, though opponents have vowed to try to get Congress or voters to overturn it.
David Catania, who introduced the bill and is one of two openly gay council members, called the bill a "matter of social justice" before the vote.
Two members voted "I do" when their names came up, and when the vote finished a packed chamber erupted into cheers and clapping. The "no" votes included former mayor Marion Barry, now a council member.
If Congress does not reject the bill, the district will join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Aisha Mills, the president of the Campaign for DC Families is elated about today’s verdict.
This is a historic day for the District of Columbia. Equality for all DC residents has prevailed. The Council's decision today embodies the true essence of leadership. Thanks to their bold work, all DC families will have the same protections, opportunities and obligations under the law.
But as we celebrate today, we are reminded that our work toward equality and social justice is not yet complete. We must remain vigilant to ensure that Congress lets this law stand, and that our equality is not put to a vote in the district.
Mills’ organization and other LGBT groups held a rally on Monday in support of today's vote. The Edge Boston reported:
More than 400 supporters of marriage equality rallied on the evening of Dec. 14 in the nation’s capital. The rally was organized by a number of groups, among them DC Clergy for Marriage Equality, DC for Marriage, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Campaign for All DC Families.
A press release about the Dec. 14 rally said that council members Harry Thomas and David Catania spoke to marriage supporters, with Catania offering his praise to the two dissenting council members, Barry and Yvette Alexander. "I want to thank the two who are not with us," said Catania. "Not because they are not with us now. But because they have been with us so often on so many other issues."
One couple anticipating the day they might legally marry in the District were Clarence Brown and Terry McGuire, who also attended the rally. "In 50 years we’ll look back and wonder why it didn’t happen sooner," McGuire said. "And I am proud to call D.C. home and be a part of it."
GLAAD will continue to monitor this issue and provide updates.