In 2009, the D.C. Council voted 11-2 to legalize same-sex marriage. The two dissenting votes came from Ward 7’s Yvette Alexander and Ward 8’s Marion Barry—the councilmembers representing the area east of the Anacostia River, the part of town that’s poorest, and, by reputation at least, most skeptical of allowing gay couples to wed. “I remember the vote about gay marriage, there was so much opposition,” says Alexander. “I was representing the views of the majority of my constituents at the time.”
Now Ward 7 is about to get a gay bar, and a big one. D.C. Eagle moved out of its New York Avenue NW location after more than 25 years this winter, displaced so an office complex can be built there. It’ll reopen at 3701 Benning Road NE, a large site with a capacity for 800 people, including a 100-seat “summer garden,” according to its liquor license application.
D.C. Eagle owner Ted Clements declined to comment on the move, but Alexander says the community’s reaction to the arrival of the gay bar has thus far been positive. Bar representatives attended a recent Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting, and everyone, says Alexander, was “very receptive” and impressed with D.C. Eagle’s thorough presentation and track record of preventing public drunkenness and violence. No one expressed opposition to having a gay bar in the neighborhood. Local ANC commissioner Evie Washington describes a “very warm reception”—particularly since the bar will serve food in an area that lacks good dining options.
Alexander says D.C. Eagle might help bring more gay awareness to her ward. “It may be a good thing so that people can get a level of understanding,” she says. As for her personal perspective on same-sex marriage: “My own view has always been, to each his own.”