Thursday, October 1, 2009

Washington DC Could Have Marriage Equality by Thanksgiving

This coming Tuesday DC Council member David Catania will finally propose his oft-reported marriage equality bill which would legalize same-sex marriage within the District.

In May the District's Council voted to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed outside its borders and the new law overcame stark opposition when a federal judge ruled against a public referendum. A public vote would violate the district's Human Rights Act.

The Washington Post:
Catania made his announcement before 150 gay rights activists gathered in Shaw for a rally featuring the Rev. Eric P. Lee, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

"We are going to do it now," Catania told the crowd. "We are going to do it now, not for ourselves, but for the young people who are 20 years-old, 16-years-old, 13-years-old."

According to a copy of the bill, the city code would be changed to state "marriage is the legally recognized union of two people" and "any person ... may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender."

Catania's bill, which states religious organizations and officials have the right not to participate in same-sex marriages, is expected to pass the council easily when it comes up for a vote around Thanksgiving. Ten of 13 council members will co-introduce Catania's bill Tuesday, and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) has pledged to sign it.
However, the bill would have to get past the U.S. Congress first which, under the Home Rule, has jurisdiction over bills in the District. Yet reports indicate that, like the marriage recognition bill, Congress won't act to fight it.

Catania has been in touch with the White House regarding the bill and states that their response "has been very good."

The amazing Rev. Eric Lee, President of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who has faced losing his job for his staunch support for marriage equality, visited the District. There he gave a sermon comparing the marriage equality battle to the struggle for voting rights in the District.

"It's taxation without representation," he said. "That's an issue here in D.C., isn't it?"

According to D.C. for Marriage, Lee continued:
Lee outlined 5 basic tenets for the marriage equality movement to follow: "education, for the purpose of organization, for the purpose of mobilization, for the purpose of agitation, for the purpose of transformation... in societal attitudes" toward LGBT citizens and same-sex relationships. In rebuttal to marriage opponents who seek to fracture DC along racial and religious lines, Lee invoked the powerful words of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Lee offered the perfect segue for pending marriage equality legislation with a rousing declaration that "the burden of discrimination is on those who are discriminating... Make the oppressor defend their discrimination! Make them look you in the eye. Make them engage you with respect."
Equally strong opponents, such as the Bishop Harry Jackson and the National Organization for Marriage, whose headquarters are in D.C., have vowed to fight the measure.

Next door, Maryland's Attorney General Douglas Gansler is expected to rule soon on the state's law and whether or not it allow the state to recognize legal same-sex marriage performed outside its borders. If he rules in favor, which many expect, many gay and lesbian couples may end up flocking to the capital to exchange vows.

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