Marriage equality supporters gathered at Washington's All Souls Church, Unitarian, to to watch Mayor Adrian Fenty sign a bill extending marriage benefits to same-sex partners throughout the city.
"It feels good to be in church," said Councilman David Catania, chief sponsor of the marriage equality bill. The Rev. Robert Hardies, co-chair of a local clergy group supporting the bill, said that the location of the signing ceremony was meant to "dispel the myth that you can't be pro-God and pro-gay."
As he took the podium, Fenty, who is biracial, drew attention to his parents, who sat in the audience. "They know something about marriage equality," Fenty said, pointing out that there was a time when "every jurisdiction didn't agree they should be married ... and if they hadn't been able to, I wouldn't have been able to be mayor of the District of Columbia right now."
Underneath the joy and excitement over the arrival of marriage equality in D.C., LGBT rights activists are quietly gearing up for a potential legal fight with Bishop Harry Jackson, who has appealed the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruling that marriage equality would not be an appropriate subject for a citywide referendum (a city law forbids putting civil rights to a referendum). If Jackson's lawyers successfully argue that the law somehow violates the rights of District residents, then he could force a referendum.
Marriage equality activists in D.C. aren't sitting still. Aisha Mills, president of the Campaign For D.C. Families, said they were already preparing an outreach plan specifically aimed at the black community, partially to shore up the pro-equality vote in case of a referendum. "We want to draw parallels around how families -- no matter what they look like -- strengthen the community," Mills said. In the meantime, national groups will work on preventing Congress from overturning law, either during the 30-day review period or by other means. "The Human Rights Campaign will be using the relationships that it has on the Hill, and will work with [D.C. Congressional Delegate] Eleanor Holmes Norton to make sure that marriage equality is protected and comes home in one piece," said Nick McCoy, a field organizer with HRC.
As the crowd of marriage equality supporters trickled out of the church, a man in a black coat and clutching a Bible told those exiting that "love is a gift from god, but marriage is for a man and a woman." Most of the people leaving the church ignored him.
At one point however, he was struck silent when a woman pushing a baby carriage cheerfully responded, "Or a woman and a woman. Or a man and a man!"
And it was true.
-- A. Serwer