Friday, September 11, 2009

Marriage in the District of Columbia?

An article in today's Washington Post discusses the possibility of a same-sex marriage bill in the District of Columbia. There has been talk for months that this may happen; according to The Post, a bill drafted by David A. Catania, one of two openly gay members of the DC City Council, will be introduced in the coming weeks.

Yesterday Catania said he had 10 co-sponsors, which would all but assure that the measure will be approved by the Council. Given the laws governing DC, however, the bill would have to survive Congressional review before it could become law.

The bill, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, would change the law to say that "marriage is the legally recognized union of two people" and that "any person who otherwise meets the eligibility requirements . . . may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender."

There are signs that the bill will generate heated opposition from members of the city's religious community, and some are concerned that the issue could split the city along racial lines. It is also sparking a debate about whether voters, rather than Council members, should have the final say over the issue.

Catania's bill, titled the "Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009," stresses that no religious organizations or their officials would have to perform a same-sex marriage or provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples.

"I think it is very important for people to realize we are talking about a civil marriage, not a religious marriage," Catania said.

Starting in 2011, the bill would eliminate domestic partnerships, although any couple already registered would have the option of keeping their partnership or converting it to a city-sanctioned marriage.

After the Council approved a bill in May that recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states, members of Congress from both parties largely steered clear of the issue. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was quoted at the time saying: "the District should be treated like a state."

The list of co-sponsors includes D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and all four-at large council members -- Catania, Kwame R. Brown (D), Michael A. Brown (I) and Phil Mendelson (D). Democratic members Jack Evans (Ward 2), Jim Graham (Ward 1), Tommy Wells (Ward 6) , Muriel Bowser (Ward 4) and Mary Cheh (Ward 3) also support the bill. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) also backs same-sex marriage.

To continue reading about this story, click here.

No comments: