Marriage equality became a reality for DC gay and lesbian couples yesterday as the DC City Council voted 11-2 approving legislation granting all of the rights afforded to heterosexual couples to same-sex couples.
Gay community leaders praised the decision of the eleven Council members who chose to vote for equality.
"The families of our LGBT sisters and brothers deserve the same rights and protections as any others, and this legislation absolutely strengthens families,” said NBJC Executive Director Sharon J. Lettman. “We celebrate this victory along with all those who have worked to ensure that civil rights in our nation's capital apply to everyone.”
"This is a place people come to see the Constitution and understand what it means to be equal, so symbolically this means a great deal," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
According to an analysis by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, more than 10,000 same-sex couples from across the country could get married in the District over the next three years if the measure becomes law.
The analysis, created in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's historic council vote, estimates that 2,000 gay couples who live in the District will marry shortly after the law takes effect. But the bulk of the weddings, which could pump millions of dollars into the regional economy, would probably be out-of-state couples unable to marry in their own states, according to the analysis, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. It concludes that at least $5 million, and perhaps as much as $22 million, would be generated by same-sex weddings in the District over the next three years.
Yesterday's vote temporarily ends a hard fought battle by the opposition led by anti-gay Bishop Harry Jackson along with several black DC clergy and The National Organization for Marriage; the organization responsible for the ballot defeats in California & Maine.
In recent weeks the Catholic Church has also vowed to sever crucial social services to the poor & homeless in protest if the marriage bill were to pass.
NOM issued a press release yesterday vowing to continue the fight to defeat the new marriage law at the ballot box.
"The people of D.C. have a right, guaranteed by the charter, which is D.C.'s constitution, to vote to protect marriage. Politicians on the city council are acting as if they have the right through legislation to deprive citizens of D.C. of their core civil right to vote, but we will not let them get away with it."
"We have one message for David Catania and the rest of these politicians today: this fight is not over. We will go to Congress, we will go to the courts, we will fight for the people’s right to vote and we will win!"
Local and national gay rights leaders note that opponents face a difficult fight: Both the Democratic-controlled House and Senate and President Obama would all have to block the legislation, which is unlikely.
DC Mayor Adrian Fenty has promised to sign the legislation and it could reach his desk by the end of the week.
Watch the roll call of the vote here and be sure to peep Bishop Jackson's face on the front row as the bill passes. Classic.