District of Columbia Mayor Adrian M.
Fenty signed into law a gay marriage bill on Friday, sparking a
renewed push by opponents to ban the institution in the city.
Fenty, 39, signed the bill at a public
ceremony at All Souls Church, a gay-friendly Unitarian Universalist
congregation located in the diverse neighborhood of Columbia Heights.
Robert Hardies, All Souls' senior
pastor, told the Washington Post that the church was “honored
to be able to host this historic bill-signing.”
Hardies' work as co-chairman of D.C.
Clergy United for Marriage Equality, a group of nearly 200
ministers who favor the legalization of gay marriage in the District,
put his church in a favorable position to host the event.
“The signing of this bill marks a
watershed moment for human rights in the District of Columbia,”
Hardies told attendees. “No longer will gay and lesbian couples be
denied the fundamental right to marriage in our nation's capital.”
“I applaud Mayor Fenty and the D.C.
Council for standing on the side of love and ending discrimination
against gay and lesbian Washingtonians,” he added.
But a second group of religious leaders
are at the heart of an effort to block the bill from taking effect
and want to ban the institution in the District.
Bishop Harry Jackson, a minister at the
Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland formed
Stand4MarriageDC.com in the spring after lawmakers approved a gay
marriage-recognition bill and promised to legalize gay marriage.
The group's efforts to put a question
prohibiting gay marriage on the ballot have been thwarted by the
city's Ethics Board, which ruled such a measure would violate the
city's Human Rights Act that prohibits discrimination based on sexual
orientation. Jackson is appealing the ruling in a Superior Court.
After the bill received its second and
final approval from city leaders on Tuesday, Jackson renewed his vow
to take the question before voters. “Our day is going to come when
the people get to vote on this. I think that's what's going to move
people – outrage with a sense of urgency,” he said.
Opponents have also appealed to
Congress to intervene. Under Home Rule, Congress has final say in
all laws approved by the District. A process that must be completed
within 30 legislative days of a bill becoming law.
Immediately after passage, the National
Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous
opponent of gay marriage, broadcast an appeal to members to contact
lawmakers on the issue.
“It's up to you and me to force
Congress to deal with the issue!,” the organization said in an
email to members. “Every member of Congress needs to hear from his
or her own constituents that this is an urgent civil rights violation
taking place in the District of Columbia that requires Congressional
attention! Send your message to Congress today.”
Representative Jason Chaffetz, a
Republican from Utah, has said he will introduce a resolution of
disapproval. But passage in the Democrat-controlled Congress remains
unlikely. A point even Chaffetz, a freshman representative, has
conceded: “It's going to be exceptionally difficult because
Democrats have us outnumbered by large amounts,” he told the Salt
Lake Tribune Wednesday. “Nevertheless, we're going to try.”
Passage in the District might give
efforts to approve a gay marriage bill in New Jersey a much needed
boost. Enthusiasm for the bill appears to be on the wane after
senators in nearby New York killed a similar bill last month and
voters in Maine “vetoed” a gay marriage law approved by lawmakers
in the spring.
If Congress fails to intervene, the
measure is expected to take effect in February.