Table Set for DC Gay Marriage Debate

Same-sex marriage bill introduced to DC Council

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    WASHINGTON -- Openly gay D.C. Councilman David Catania introduced the long-anticipated same-sex marriage bill to little fanfare Tuesday.

    The bill is expected to pass the council easily but face some intense public opposition. Catania introduced the bill with nine cosponsors, almost guaranteeing its passage later this fall after a required public hearing, which promises to be much noisier than the packed council chamber was Tuesday.

    "It's quiet outrage in the city," said resident Kathryn Pearson-West. "People don't want to come across that they're antisocial or not nice or whatever, but there's a lot of concern, there are lot of people who are saying they do not want same-sex marriage."

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    Mayor Adrian Fenty has said he will sign the bill, but it could be opposed in Congress, which has the right to overturn it. Opponents want Congress to either block the bill or require a referendum.

    Catania is confident Congress won't interfere.

    "Can I predict what will happen? No," he said. "We have been in contact with the White House and with the speaker's office and we're going to work to do our best to preserve this. There are a whole host of ways in which those who are opposed to marriage equality can create mischief, and it's our job, once we get it through council, to try to play defense."

    The bill protects religious freedom by not requiring houses of worship to perform or allow such marriages while granting full legal recognition in the courts and other civil places, supporters said.

    However, opponents say houses of worship would be required to allow such services if they routinely make their facilities available to the general public, as many do. The opponents say that is a big "loophole" in the religious freedom part of Catania's proposal.

    "This is not a personal issue," Catania said. "If it were a personal issue, then only Councilmember Graham and I would be supporting it. The fact of the matter is that there are 10 members of the council -- gay and straight -- that support this. This is about the next evolution toward human rights in the District of Columbia."

    Earlier this year, the council passed a bill recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states, despite very vocal opposition.