City Desk

Gay Marriage Recognition Passes Council—Did Barry Flip Again?

Completely without ceremony or debate, the D.C. Council has just made its final vote to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Actually, the council did not vote specifically on the legislation, but rather voted it through as part of the "consent agenda"—a package of typically uncontroversial bills passed together without objection.

Any member can take a bill of the consent agenda, but Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, who told a crowd last week he'd oppose the bill, declined to do so.

This may not be over—Barry may not have realized what he was voting on, and could move a reconsideration.

UPDATE, 11:15 A.M.: OK, Barry just realized his mistake. He has moved reconsideration. Roll call vote passes 10-3, with Catania, Graham, and Evans opposing.

UPDATE, 11:22 A.M.: Debate has begun. Barry has begun speaking on the gay marriage measure, "It's been a very agonizing and difficult kind of decision. In America, we have a democracy...it is one of the better democracies in the world, which allows people to disagree on the issues....I represent the 70,000 residents of Ward 8. I represent a lot of other people citywide because of my long service as mayor....I initially said i would be supportive [of gay marriage]...and my phone lit up, people talked to me in the street about. And I prayed." Barry went on to speak about his long civil rights record, including opposing the firing of a gay teacher. "The ministers and preachers of this town ...have a responsibility to stand on the moral compass of God whereever they go, and they do....I feel comfortable with this position because I know where my heart is....I'm representing my constituencies." He explained that his signature appeared on the original amendment due to a staff error when he was in the hospital: "It'll never happen again, or they'll be at 64 P Street, which is the unemployment office....I don't want this to be a litmus test. Look at the whole picture. Look at my whole history. In a democracy, you ought to be able to disagree without being put to a test....Look where i was on gay pride day. I started that!...I said I'm a moral person, but I'm not a pastor or a preacher." He closed by pointing out that he was a member of the Temple of Praise church in Ward 8. He pointed out that his own preacher, Bishop Glen Staples, opposes the bill.

UPDATE, 11:40 A.M.: Phil Mendelson, sponsor of the amendment, and now David Catania have spoken in support. "It is somewhat personal," Catania says. "I think it immoral for you to be my friend on one hand and on the other say you are not entitled to the same rights and obligations that I am." "The District has been a place where we've long tried to live under our motto, 'Justice for All'...I will not stop until I have that for every single resident of this city." Retorted Barry, "I resent that implication, that because you're not over here on this particular issue, that you're not being treated equally. That's not fair at all." That earned him applause from a portion of the council chamber. Catania comes back: "I want to be clear...Your position is bigoted, I don't think that you are."

UPDATE, 11:45 P.M.: Tommy Wells speaks up for Barry's civil rights record and the record of churches in delivering needed services, but he says he's foursquare behind the marriage measure: "This is not a political issue for me. This is a moral issue." And here comes Jim Graham, against starting out with kind words for Barry's history before noting, "We part ways today on this issue."

UPDATE, 11:50 P.M.: Graham, who is gay, drops the little known fact that he was once married. "Legally married, to a woman I love to this day. But, for obvious reasons, that didn't work out," he said, to chuckles in the chamber. He closed: "There is not enough love in this world today."

UPDATE, 11:55 P.M.: Yvette Alexander has strong words for the ecclesiastical community: "They have questioned my Christianity. They have question my morality....Let me just say this is an issue of fairness....I do know one thing, that everyone is equal under God." Alexander also alluded to some political pressure she's been feeling: "For those of you threatening to run a 'Christian candidate' against me in the next election, you should know: I'm a Christian candidate, too."

UPDATE 12:00 P.M.: The bill passes, for real this time—12-1, with Barry dissenting.

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  • MTB

    Am I the only one that thinks it's funny that the one person who votes against a marriage bill was arrested in a hotel room with coccaine?

    He is divorced, was rumored unfaithful to her prior to the divorce and arrest in a hotel room smoking crack, and his vote mattered or represented the moral majority. Oh my God that's hysterical!!!!!!!

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  • Ward 5

    Seem Alexander was the most courageous of the councilmembers. Thank you, for taking the most heat from your constituents. Your faith should not be questioned because you believe in the equality of all people!

  • Sam

    I congratulate Marion Barry for his principled and courageous stand against the recognition of gay marriage in the District. Yes, he does have a "past", and it would have been easy to bend with the others, but like the California beauty queen, Barry decided to do the right thing, and "damn the torpedoes." And as far as Jimmy Graham goes, Graham himelf admits that he has exercised the same right to be married that all people in DC already have.

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  • Matt

    Having the ability to sit in on this session and experience this take place; I am humbled by the words of Catanis and Mendelton who spoke very eloquently on the issue; meanwhile, Barry was busy reading his newspaper, he didn't so much as glance in the direction of those who were speaking. Marrion Barry's supposed past contributions to the gay community do not protect him from being identified as the biggot he showed himself to be today!
    Though I do not agree with how much religious influence Alexander, her common sense approach to the issue is the best possible compromise a GLBT rights activist could hope for. She was able to look through her doubts about gay marriage and vote for fairness and equality; I hope she continues to do so in the fight for full marriage equality. I also hope that the GLBT community is able to take her advice about reaching out to these religious communities that so blatently oppose marriage equality...hopefully they'll listen, but then, I'm not too hopeful.
    It is unfortunate that the council couldn't take a role call of the attendees... most of on the opposing were not likely from DC... and no Bowie conservatives should have any chance to meddle in DC affairs!

  • ibc

    Marion Barry: Wrong On Every Single Damned Thing Ever

  • Sam:

    Or rather, Marion Barry just prove that you can't be wrong on every thing all the time.

  • ToddinDC

    Are you kidding me? Marion Barry has the nerve to state he has any morality? Even if you give him the benefit of the doubt he may have atoned for earlier sins, his recent record isn't any better (income tax evasion, issue with anger, etc). Luckily, the rest of the Council isn't as hypocritical. Barry is the one that should be voted off during the next election-not anyone else.

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