D.C. Gay Marriage Bill "for Young People": Councilman

Bill was introduced Tuesday

By Asha Beh
|  Tuesday, Oct 6, 2009  |  Updated 1:18 PM EDT
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D.C. Gay Marriage Bill "for Young People": Councilman

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When it comes to the same-sex marriage bill that was put on the table Tuesday, City Council member David Catania (I-At Large) is not worried about the current generation.

It's all about the youngsters.

"We are going to do it now, not for ourselves, but for the young people who are 20 years old, 16 years old, 13 years old," Catania told 150 gay activists at a rally in Shaw last Wednesday.

The bill introduced Tuesday is all but guaranteed to pass the D.C. Council, with 10 of 13 council members introducing it and a pledge by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to sign it. 

If passed, the District would phase out the city's domestic partnership law and instead allow two persons” who are currently in a valid domestic partnership, as recognized by the city, to apply for and receive a marriage license free of charge “provided that the parties are eligible to marry," The Washington Blade reported.

Catania has carefully calibrated the bill to add that religious organizations and officials have the right not to participate in same-sex marriages or even provide wedding-related services to such couples -- a point he hopes will prevent opponents of the bill from making this a religious rights issue, as they did in California.

"I think it is very important for people to realize we are talking about a civil marriage, not a religious marriage," Catania told The Washington Post last month.

If the legislation passes, Congress could try to block the bill, but many think that's unlikely with Democrats controlling the House and Senate.

Opposition from The White House is also not expected, said Catania. 

"We are not asking the White House to change its position on marriage equality -- the discussion with the White House is about supporting local home rule," Catania told the Post.

A public hearing on the bill is expected to be scheduled in late November, although opponents of the legislation are trying to force a vote sooner.

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