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By Randy Sly

12/3/2009 (5 years ago)

Catholic Online (

By an 11-2 margin the District of Columbia is only a few steps away from becoming an opponent of marriage.


By Randy Sly

Catholic Online (

12/3/2009 (5 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - The District of Columbia Council, on Tuesday, gave initial support for legalizing same-sex marriage in the nation's capital. With an 11-2 margin, the first reading of the bill was approved, which was no surprise as the bill was co-sponsored by 10 of the council members.

Following a second vote tentatively set for December 15, Mayor Adrian Fenty has reported he will sign the bill. Congress will have then 30 days to overrule the measure. If no objections are raised, DC could begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses early in 2010.

Currently, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont recognize same-sex marriages with New Hampshire beginning in January.

The two council members who voted against the measure were Yvette Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, and Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat. Both indicated that their opposition was a representative vote for their overwhelmingly black constituencies.

Barry told the Washington Times, "This community is deeply divided on this issue and it to some extent cuts across racial lines, unfortunately. It's not fair to make this one issue a litmus test as to one's commitment to human rights -- to justice."

Supporters and opponents of the resolution are both hoping that the issue is not resolved at the congressional level as tensions between city and national governments are very high due to the limited home-rule policy for D.C.

"The citizens of the District of Columbia do not need the Hill to meddle in our affairs," Rev. Patrick J. Walker, pastor of the New Macedonia Baptist Church and an opponent of gay marriage, told the Wall Street Journal. "I'd rather see this in court than on the Hill."

Opponents already filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court at overturning the decision of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to block a ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage.

Pressure regarding the resolution has been felt at the local and congressional level. One of the main targets by DC government and proponents of the bill is the Archdiocese of Washington, whom they vilified for their opposition. City leaders and major news organizations said that the Church was using Catholic Charities' work in the district as leverage to overturn this issue by threatening to withhold services.

The Archdiocese has been impeded in their attempts to clarify the issues and options.

According to a story in the Archdiocese "Catholic Standard, "The archdiocese is morally opposed to the bill and opposes redefining marriage, based on the Catholic Church's long-held religious belief that marriage is a permanent union between one man and one woman. Archdiocesan officials have also repeatedly expressed concerns about the bill's religious freedom exemption, which they consider to be flawed.

Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, stated, "The Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic Charities and our other agencies are committed to continuing to serve the people of the District of Columbia as we have done for more than 80 years, with the resources available to us."

Each year, Catholic Charities serves 68,000 people in the District of Columbia through a range of services, including shelter, nutrition, counseling, employment and job training services, legal and health care assistance, immigration assistance and more.

The decision of the Council is really the problem, as Brian Burch, President of, explains. "The decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia is a tragic choice for marriage generally, and a troubling encroachment on the freedom of the Church to practice its faith free of governmental interference," Burch told the Catholic News Agency.

"Engaged Catholic citizens have worried for years that legally sanctioned same-sex marriage was destined to infringe upon the religious freedom of the Church," Burch told CNA on Tuesday. "The more honest gay marriage activists have admitted as much. This is in part why voters have overwhelmingly affirmed the traditional definition of marriage when offered the choice."


Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online. He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.


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