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D.C. Closer to Deciding on Marriage


A measure that would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington, D.C., likely has enough support to pass the District council, the proposal's author told The Washington Post.

David Catania, one of two openly gay council members, told the Post his bill has 10 cosponsors, a majority of the 13-member council. He expects to introduce the bill next week, and it is likely to come to a vote before the end of the year, the Post reported Friday.

However, if the measure passes, it must be reviewed by Congress, which is the case with all legislation approved by the D.C. council. Congress has 30 days to issue a joint resolution of the House and Senate disapproving an act of the council, and if the president approves the congressional resolution during that period, the act does not become law.

Peter Rosenstein, a D.C. gay rights activist, told the Post he thinks Democrats in Congress are likely to protect the legislation from a vote of disapproval. "Do we have a guarantee?" he said. "No. But we are fairly confident at this point."

Antigay activists, though, are lobbying Congress too, and if the marriage equality law passes, they could mount an effort to repeal it by popular vote. D.C. law prohibits referendums on matters covered by the District's Human Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation, but some antigay ministers and other conservative leaders have asked the local board of elections to authorize a vote in this case.

The legislation makes clear that no religious organization would have to bless any marriage not in keeping with its belief system. "I think it is very important for people to realize we are talking about a civil marriage, not a religious marriage," Catania said in the article.

The District already offers domestic partnerships to same-sex couples; if the marriage equality bill passes, it will cease offering DPs in 2011 but will give couples who already have a domestic partnership the option of retaining it or converting it to a city-approved marriage. D.C. already recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. If the new bill is approved, the District will become the first government entity south of the Mason-Dixon line with marriage equality.

"It's a particularly satisfying point in time to have a community and the council that is so committed to marriage equality," Catania said to the Post. "The debate is almost over here. The acceptance, while not universal, is substantial."

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