D.C. Mayor Signs Gay Marriage Bill

A bill legalizing gay marriage in the nation's capital was signed by the mayor Friday but won't go into effect until it clears one more hurdle.

Though the bill was signed by Washington Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in a public ceremony following an 11-2 vote by the city's council just days earlier, it must past a 30-day period of Congressional review to become law.

Traditional marriage supporters, who tried but failed to bring the issue to the ballot for a vote by the people, have vowed to try to get Congress to overturn it.

In its present state, the same-sex marriage bill would make Washington the first city to give same-sex couples both the option to marry or enter a domestic partnership.

Though the legislation includes a provision stating that a religious society or organization is not required to provide services, accommodations, facilities or goods for the purpose of the solemnization or celebration of same-sex marriage, some D.C. churches are not satisfied with it.

Furthermore, the bill does not exempt a group from liability if it discriminates in such areas as health care benefits for the same-sex spouse of an employee.

Despite protests and calls for changes to the legislation, the bill is expected to pass Congress and its supporters say gay couples may be able to wed in the district as early as March.

Since 1992, the District of Columbia has recognized domestic partnerships and, earlier this year, the D.C. Council unanimously voted to recognize gay and lesbian marriages performed elsewhere.

Last month, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics decided not to take same-sex marriage to the ballot for a vote by the people as traditional marriage advocates petitioned it to be.

In their ruling, the board determined that allowing residents of the District of Columbia to vote on the divisive issue would violate the Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against gays and lesbians.

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