The D.C. Council, in a long anticipated move, voted to legalize the performance of same-sex marriages in Washington. Only two members, Ward 7’s Yvette Alexander and Ward 8’s Marion Barry, voted against the measure, which continues now to a second and final vote next month.

At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who shepherded the bill though the council, said there were ‘no surprises’ today. Ahead of the votes, several of colleagues gave short statements in support of the bill; only Barry spoke against it.

“‘I stand here to declare, in no uncertain terms, my strong commitment to the gay and lesbian, transgender, and bisexual community on almost every issue but this one,” Barry said.

He stood alone in vocalizing his opposition. Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham detailed a 20-year campaign toward gay equality, beginning with the legalization of sodomy and continuing with the establishment of domestic partnerships, and the near-constant addition of rights to that designation.

“Consider this whole march of progess in terms of human dignity, human equality, fairness,” he said on the dais.

At-Large Councilmember David A. Catania, main author of the bill, described it as “a day I never though I’d see and never though I’d have the privilege to participate in as a gay person.”

Afterward, supporters and opponents of the measure gathered with media in the Wilson Building hallway.

Much of the debate in recent weeks has centered around whether Catholic Charities will continue to provide city-funded services to the District. Susan Gibbs said the Archdiocese of Washington is “committed to providing services with the resources we have” while emphasizing its responsibility to “follow our teaching.”

Gibbs said talks continue on a possible solution that could keep Catholic Charities as a city contractor; she described a meeting yesterday with councilmembers as “substantive and positive.” Catania, on the dais, said, “My door remains open to anty language that could perfect the religious freedom” aspect of the bill. Asked whether a solution is possible in the coming month, Gibbs said, “I’m in the business of faith.”

Bishop Harry Jackson, leader of a coalition opposing the gay marriage measure, vowed to continue his fight in the courts and on Capitol Hill—-and reiterated his desire to have a citywide vote on the matter. “All of the cards have been placed in the hands of the city council,” Jackson said,

Jackson acknowledged that moving his fight to the Hill threatens to thin his coalition, with some local folks revolted by same-sex marriage revolted even more by the prospect of subverting a local political decision. But he says that those folks “will not protest if we get our way.”

On the Hill, Jackson said he’s working with a “consortium” of representatives. He named only Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, but he added he had some “strong leadership vows.”

“The test,” he says, “is, can we get some Blue Dog Democrats to cross the aisle with us?”

Jackson gave credit to gay-marriage proponents for their longstanding campaign. “My opponents have done a masterful job of systematically bringing the council to where it is,” he said. “A council that doesn’t agree on anything!”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery/File

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