Council Votes to Allow Gay Couples to Wed in D.C.

The Washington D.C. City Council voted Tuesday to legalize same-sex marriage in the District.

In a final vote, the council voted 11-2. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has promised to sign the bill.

The action was expected as most council members expressed support for the bill over the past several months of debate.

During a rally Monday, council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), the lead sponsor of the bill, stated, "For the world to see gays and lesbian couples equal to straight couples in the nation's capital, that is an important message," according to The Washington Post.

The rally drew hundreds of same-sex marriage supporters, including some clergy. The Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations, plans to host a celebration Tuesday evening.

"The legislation the Council passed today reinforces the legal equality and religious freedoms to which all D.C. residents are entitled," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, in a statement.

Though the bill was expected to pass, opponents of same-sex marriage worked tirelessly to get approval to take the issue to the ballot for a vote by the people. But last month, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics rejected a ballot initiative.

Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr., pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and who led the effort for a referendum, believes if same-sex marriage was put to a popular vote, residents in the District would choose to preserve traditional marriage.

"Although the opposition's efforts made an impact on the mayor's office and the DC Council, it has not changed the opinion of the mass voters in the District," Jackson stated.

The bill must survive a 30-day congressional review period to become law. Traditional marriage supporters have vowed to try to get Congress or voters to overturn it.

The same-sex marriage bill 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.

Its passage comes days after the New Jersey legislature canceled a vote on legalizing same-sex marriage. The New York Senate rejected a similar bill earlier this month. Also, last month Maine's law allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed was repealed by voters.