D.C. gives 'gay marriage' final OK

Baptist Press
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Posted: Dec 15, 2009 5:15 PM
WASHINGTON (BP)--The District of Columbia Council again voted 11-2 to legalize same-sex "marriage" on Dec. 15, providing the final legislative action needed for the capital to become the sixth U.S. jurisdiction to approve such unions.

The council approved the bill by the same margin Dec. 1 in the first step of the two-part process. Mayor Adrian Fenty has said he will sign the measure.

Congress has a 30-day period in which to review the bill after it becomes law, but it appears unlikely legislators will overturn the D.C. action.

Five states -- Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- recognize "gay marriage." In none of those states, however, have voters approved it in a ballot initiative. All 31 states that have held ballot initiatives on the question of same-sex "marriage" have affirmed the traditional view of the institution.

An effort to place a proposal on the ballot to prohibit "gay marriage" was attempted, but the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics turned it down Nov. 17. The board said the initiative, which would define marriage as only "between a man and a woman," could not go forward because it "would authorize discrimination prohibited" under the city's Human Rights Act.

The Alliance Defense Fund has filed a lawsuit on behalf of eight D.C. citizens calling for approval of the attempt to place the initiative on the ballot.

"It is tragic that the city council of our nation's capital is ignoring the city's citizens and pushing ahead to bring same-sex marriage to Washington, D.C., without allowing the people of the District of Columbia a direct chance to address this issue," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), after the final vote.

Pointing to the 31 states in which voters have approved ballot initiatives defending traditional marriage, Land said, "There is every reason to believe that the citizens of the District of Columbia would do the same if given the opportunity."

Homosexual rights advocates viewed the bill's passage as another milestone for their movement.

"This legislation is an important and historic step towards equal dignity, equal respect and equal rights for same-sex couples here in our nation's capital...," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest homosexual rights organization.

As was the case Dec. 1, the only two D.C. council members to vote against the "gay marriage" bill were Marion Barry and Yvette Alexander, both Democrats.

The bill's opponents, including the ERLC, say the legislation will harm the institution of marriage as well as families and society. They also contend the measure does not appear to provide enough protection for the expression of religious belief by those who oppose "gay marriage."

"It will lead to the violation of the consciences of children in schools as they are subjected to teachings in an authoritarian environment that same-sex marriage is a legitimate form of marriage," Land said in a letter to the D.C. elections board before its ruling. "Changing the definition of marriage would likely also result in government restrictions on the religious freedom of religious groups, potentially exposing them to government reprisal for honoring their faith convictions" regarding homosexuality.

Defenders of the bill say it protects the rights of clergy and religious bodies.

The D.C. council voted 12-1 in May to recognize "same-sex marriages" performed in other jurisdictions. The law enables homosexual couples living in D.C. to have wedding ceremonies in states where "gay marriage" is legal and have those unions recognized by the district.

Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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