According to Washington insiders, District of Columbia’s City Council members David Catania (SFS ’90, LAW ’94) and Jim Graham are planning on presenting a same-sex marriage bill to their peers as early as this coming January. And Mayor Adrian Fenty and at least 10 of the Council’s 13 members are committed to passing a same-sex marriage bill. The District’s Council is ready to take momentous action.

However, the specter of Congress, which so often keeps D.C. officials from enacting the policies they want for their constituencies, is threatening to rear its ugly head again. Many activists and city officials are concerned that Congress will invoke its power to overturn city laws.

In overturning a same-sex marriage bill, Congress would be unduly hindering the Council members’ ability to respond to the desires of a large portion of their constituents. Washington, D.C., has a gay community that comprises about 8.1 percent of the adult population, thus making it one of the biggest gay cities in the United States, according to the Williams Institute’s 2006 survey. There is a precedent of the District supporting the gay community, especially during the past 20 years. The District recognized domestic partnerships as early as 1992 in the Health Benefits Expansion Act. After a decade of congressional interference that blocked the appropriation of funds toward the execution of the law, it was implemented in 2002 and has expanded ever since. On May 6, 2008, the District of Columbia City Council unanimously passed the Omnibus Domestic Partnership Equality Amendment Act of 2008. According to the Washington Blade, a local gay and lesbian newspaper, it brought “the law to a point where same-sex couples who register as domestic partners will receive most, but not quite all, of the rights and benefits of marriage under District law.” The City Council has continually shown unprejudiced and advanced wisdom in granting their gay and lesbian constituents the rights they deserve as citizens. If only Congress would not keep the Council from taking the final step toward providing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples full and equal rights.

If you believe that the District’s same-sex marriage bill should be allowed to stand, make sure you vote in this election. For the bill to survive, there must be enough support in Congress, so there are enough votes to block any attempt to overturn a marriage bill. Several local groups, including the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance and the D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Men and Women, have come together to form the Foundation for All D.C. Families, which would lead opposition to any initiative to ban same-sex marriage in the District. When this issue surfaces, it is sure to be a contentious issue, and this organization will need advocates.

For now, we should provide City Councilmen with vocal support. By proposing such a bill, they run the risk of suffering a sharp backlash from Congress, as was threatened in 2005 when Major Fenty raised the issue of recognizing same sex marriages.

We are incredibly proud that one of the Councilmen that is reportedly introducing this bill is a Georgetown Law Center graduate, and we hope that his fellow Hoyas will enthusiastically back his progressive pursuit.

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