D.C. Council Votes to Recognize Other States' Gay Marriages

The D.C. Council voted today to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, on the same day that Vermont became the fourth state to legalize same-sex unions.

Domestic partnerships are already legal in the nation's capital. But today's vote, billed as an important milestone in gay rights, explicitly recognizes relocated gay married couples as married.

The initial vote was 12-0. The unanimous vote sets the stage for future debate on legalizing same-sex marriage in the District and a clash with Congress, which approves the city's laws under Home Rule. The council is expected to take a final vote on the legislation next month.

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is gay, called the amendment a matter of "basic fairness."

The city's laws on same-sex unions have been murky, he explained. Couples ask, he said, "Is my marriage valid in D.C.? For years now, it has not been clear."

"It's high time we send a clear, unequivocal message to those persons of the same sex and married in another jurisdiction that their marriage is valid in D.C.," said Graham, who added, "I hope this city recognizes this is a human rights struggle."

Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), who is also gay, predicted it was only a matter of time before the council also takes up a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the District. "It's no secret that I have been working on legislation that would take us further," he said. "This is the march toward human rights and equality. This is not the march toward special rights. This is the equality march and that march is coming here."

Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who has been chipping away at barriers for same-sex couples for years, said he saw the legislation as one that is in keeping with the city's laws. "Some are saying it's an important step. I am saying it's a simple step," said Mendelson, who authored the legislation.

Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) called the amendment "long overdue."

"We as a council need to stand in the right place and take the gray area out," he said.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/07/AR2009040702200.html?hpid=topnews