D.C. Gay Marriage: The Roadblocks That Remain
Here's now Ward 5 ANC member Bob King feels about gay marriage:
"This is the most contentious issue of the 21st century," he says. Even accounting for "the fact we have two wars, a struggling economy, health-care reform, 13 percent unemployment rate, 50 percent dropout rate, African-American kids, Latino kids dying in the streets at an alarming rate—this is still the most contentious issue of the 21st century, and the registered voters are demanding to be heard."
Yikes. With emotions running that deep and many options for same-sex marriage opponents hoping to derail the D.C. Council's vote today, expect much drama to come. In fact, the process up to this point has been rather predictable. What will follow is anyone's guess.
Bishop Harry Jackson, the face of the anti-gay-marriage movement here, says: "We are simply going to try every available opportunity politically and legally to make this happen."
OK, let's start with the political options: King et al. are making the rounds of congressional offices hoping to drum up interest in Capitoll Hill intervention into the council vote. King boasts a full schedule of meetings, and says the refrain he's hearing is this: "Let the people vote!"
At-Large Councilmember David A. Catania, prime supporter of the marriage bill, says he's got strategy of his own. "I was on the Hill last week," he says. "I'm not going to telegraph to the world what our plans are....Rest assured we are working very diligently to defend this victory on the Hill. in the worst case scenario....we'll get up the next day and begin pushing the boulder up the hill."
As for the legal side, King and Jackson put a lot of faith in their attorneys, from the Alliance Defense Fund: "I believe that we have the best legal team in America," King says. A hearing is set for Jan. 6 before a Superior Court judge on one suit to force a popular vote on marriage.
For his part, Catania notes that anti-marriage forces have already been dealt an early loss in Superior Court, and that the lawyers tasked with defending the city's decision are no slouches. "You never know when you go before an independent judiciary; nothing is assured," he says. "But I think our arguments are sound, and we're working were hard to put an architecture in place of legal justifications for our actions. We've had a good track record so far, and I expect that to continue."
In fact, Catania says he's less scared of the lawsuits than of the prospect of a "nongermane amendment" getting added to some random congressional measure—and that's a threat that will continue indefinitely. "There's no question were going to be defending this, and defending it and defending it, until the other side realizes it's costing them more votes than gaining them," he says.
In the best-case scenario, same-sex couples can expect to get married by early-to-mid-March, after Congress' 30-legislative-day review period expires. Or it might take much longer. In any case, expect a surfeit of quasi-apocalyptic rhetoric as the debate proceeds.
"I'm going to use the full power of the black church to kill this bill," says the Rev. Anthony Evans of Mount Zion Baptist Church. "I feel pity for those who voted for this because they have defied the will of God. We have warned them."
Adds King: "The battle may have been won here today, but the war is on, and we intend to win God's war."