D.C. Marriage Equality an All But Sure Thing

Timothy Kincaid

September 11th, 2009

District of Columbia councilman David Catania will introduce a marriage equality bill for the District in the coming weeks. He appears to have adequate support for passage. (WaPo)

After months of buildup and behind-the-scenes lobbying, a bill by David A. Catania, one of two openly gay members of the council, has been drafted and is ready to be introduced in the coming weeks. Catania (I-At Large) expects a final vote before the end of the year. On Thursday, Catania said he had 10 co-sponsors, all but assuring that the measure will be approved by the council. The bill would have to survive congressional review before it could become law.

Wisely, Catania is following the precedent of New England states in assuring religious institutions that they need not change their theology.

Catania’s bill, titled the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009,” stresses that no religious organizations or their officials would have to perform a same-sex marriage or provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples.

“I think it is very important for people to realize we are talking about a civil marriage, not a religious marriage,” Catania said.

Starting in 2011, the bill would eliminate domestic partnerships, although any couple already registered would have the option of keeping their partnership or converting it for free to a city-sanctioned marriage.

Naturally, anti-gay activists will do whatever they can to deny to gay people the rights that they hold so dear for themselves. But with Democratic majorities in both houses, this bill may not be subjected to a congressional veto.

Mary Hayes

September 11th, 2009

“ ‘I think it is very important for people to realize we are talking about a civil marriage, not a religious marriage,’ Catania said.”

I hope this doesn’t mean that a same-sex wedding conducted in a church won’t be recognized legally. That would be just another separate-but-equal charade.

Richard W. Fitch

September 11th, 2009

I’m confident that the DC Bill will consider marriage in a similar way most states do now. The church ceremony is not itself a legal ceremony. The officiating clergy must be authorized by the state to make the marriage valid for record.

Christopher Waldrop

September 11th, 2009

Mary, that’s an excellent point when you say, “I hope this doesn’t mean that a same-sex wedding conducted in a church won’t be recognized legally.”

Something that seems to come up repeatedly in the debate is that there are churches and even some denominations that are willing to recognize and perform same-sex marriages. If this is an issue of religious liberty then those churches that wish to perform same-sex marriages should be allowed to do so. And, as a matter of religious equality, same-sex marriages performed in one church should be just as legal and grant the same rights given to heterosexual marriages performed in another church.


September 11th, 2009

Congress is most likely not the problem with passing gay marriage. A referendum vote that would overturn gay marriage a la Prop 8 is a more daunting and realistic possibility. NOM and other anti-gay groups have already galvanized to undo gay marriage at the ballot box.


September 12th, 2009

The best would be to do as in France: only a marriage done in a notary’s office, on the law’s terms, is recognized as a civil marriage. The couple may then conduct any sort of ceremony in a church afterwards (or before), but it has no bearing on state recognition.


September 12th, 2009

Javier they already tried to do that to recognizing outside marriage, only to be denied as D.C. does not allow referendums on civil rights issues. So nope, the anti-gays are screwed on this one! :D


September 12th, 2009

“I think it is very important for people to realize we are talking about a civil marriage, not a religious marriage,” Catania said.

And now we wait for the people ‘following their religion’ by hating gays happily ignore this and the 9th commandment in their speeches.

The Lauderdale

September 12th, 2009

@Mary and Christopher:

I could be wrong, but I don’t think weddings conducted in churches *are* recognized legally unless/until they have a notarized marriage license to back it up. When church officials act as notaries they are using civil powers that have been licensed by the state.

Please correct me if I misstating this, but that’s my understanding.

Richard W. Fitch

September 12th, 2009

@The Lauderdale,Mary,Christopher: That was exactly my point. Some one can get a mail-order ordination and perform religious marriage ceremonies. Only those officiants that are authorized by the state can perform legal marriages.

(Christopher): as a matter of religious equality, same-sex marriages performed in one church should be just as legal and grant the same rights given to heterosexual marriages performed in another church.

I’m not quite sure what your meaning is here; but I must point out that something as central to the Christian churches as the Mass/Eucharist/Communion is not recognized as valid from one sect to another. As an Episcopalian in good standing I am still not allowed to partake of the elements in a RC mass, nor is a RC allowed to receive the elements in the Eastern Orthodox mass. And, really, most of the marriage issues are related to the 1000+ civil issues than to anything in church doctrine.

Timothy Kincaid

September 14th, 2009


I think you may be overstating the status of French couple recognition. France does not allow same sex couples to marry nor does it provide full marriage equality. Rather, France recognizes a limited and less status called PACS.

Timothy Kincaid

September 14th, 2009

Christopher, Richard, Mary, etc.

One of the arguments for marriage equality that I believe has been unrecognized is the freedom of religion. I look forward to the day when a recognized non-fringe church like, say, the United Church of Christ or the Episcopal Church or even a diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church sues the state for giving preference to some other church’s sacraments over their own.

It would take little effort to show that the bases behind all gay bans are tied to a specific religious belief and in this country not even “the voters” can give preference to one religion over another.

But even before the lawsuits (which I pray for), I think that this argument should be made in campaigns.

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