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Dec. 2, 2009

A step in the right direction

by Katie Sint, Online Managing Editor
"We're about to embark on an exciting journey here in the city," D.C. Council member David A. Catania said. Addressing his fellow city council members in a packed room, Catania gave a voice to the hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian Americans living in the District. And now, with one piece of legislation, Catania has given them all hope.

On Oct. 6, 2009, Catania, the first openly gay person elected to the D.C. Council, proposed a bill calling for the legalization of same-sex marriages in the District. After the bill was approved in a 4-1 committee vote on Nov. 1, it was debated on the floor in full city council.

Yesterday, the D.C. Council voted 11-2 to legalize gay marriage in the District, according to an article in the Washington Post. However, before the bill can be signed into law, it must pass a second vote being held in two weeks. The D.C. Council has already overcome a major hurdle by voting to pass the same-sex marriage bill during the first vote, and now, with only one vote remaining, it's time we give our people their rights.

Catania's bill is a compromise. The bill would legalize gay marriages but would not require religious institutions such as churches or cathedrals to participate in these ceremonies. The bill would simply require religious institutions to recognize the unions. No legislation should require members of religious institutions to participate in ceremonies that go against their beliefs; however, no religious beliefs should dictate legislation that would impede the civil rights of American citizens.

For years, America has gone back and forth on this issue and Catania's bill provides a great middle ground for people on both sides of this argument. Although there should be a definite line between church and state, this bill creates a bridge between the two.

A study conducted by the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law estimates that there are 8.8 million gay, lesbian and bisexual persons living in the United States. Although only a slight percentage live in D.C., passing this bill could set a precedent for the nation. This is especially important after the backtracking in gay rights posed by the passing of Proposition 8 in California last year and the repealing of gay marriage laws in Maine this month. Both states legalized gay marriages, only to overturn the laws, once again taking away promises made to the gay community.

Protesters have been active in garnering support for gay rights.<i>Picture courtesy of ABC News.</i>
Protesters have been active in garnering support for gay rights.Picture courtesy of ABC News.
As a city, D.C. has taken a momentous step forward towards equality for all people regardless of sexual orientation, and cannot afford to take a step back. As a nation that prides itself on its acceptance and celebration of diversity, it is unfair to keep denying our citizens their most basic civil right to marriage. Opponents of gay marriage have argued that legalizing these unions would be wrong and immoral, as well as religiously reprehensible. These same arguments were made over interracial marriage more than 40 years ago.

However, many states began to legalize and recognize interracial unions in the 1950s and 1960s, causing the Supreme Court and the national government to follow suit. In the 21st century, D.C. has a chance to right this wrong. Passing this bill would grant a small percentage of the gay population of America the right to marriage, but it could pave the way for other states.

D.C. has always been progressive when it comes to gay rights. The city has also been very accepting of the gay community; it has been the home of the annual Gay Pride Parade in Dupont Circle and the Gay Rights March on the National Mall. It's time that D.C. legislation catches up to the spirits and beliefs of its people by accepting and recognizing these important unions.

The D.C. Council should pass this bill in the second vote and sign it into law. The right to marriage should be open to everyone, regardless of their choice in partner. The passing of this bill will show the rest of the country and the world that the people of D.C. do not tolerate discrimination. Hopefully, the journey Catania spoke of will take us to a world where love and acceptance are stronger than fear and hate.

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  • supporter on December 2, 2009 at 4:19 PM
    Nice ed.! I'm glad about the first vote and i hope it will be 100% legalized soon. it sucks that D.C. has to bother with congressional review at all :l
  • Top story? on December 2, 2009 at 5:09 PM
    I'm mad that our bathrooms are locked all the time but shouldn't the fact that the D.C. council just granted basic civil rights to a large number of D.C. residents be the top story?
    • uhh.. on December 3, 2009 at 9:05 AM
      haven't you noticed the coverage of the bathroom story in all the media??..
  • kuntamama on December 2, 2009 at 6:24 PM
    Not only is this the best op/ed i've ever read, but its written by the most beautiful author i've ever seen. how do you do it ms sint?

    ps that graphic is awesome!
  • Stefanie Weldon (View Email) on December 3, 2009 at 12:29 PM
    Great piece matched only by the inspirational graphic. Congrats to both author and artist.
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