Monday was the second day of the marathon hearings on the DC marriage bill. Over 250 people signed up to testify for or against legalizing marriages between same-sex couples over the two days with roughly 80% of the witnesses supporting marriage.
Yesterday's hearing was capped by Andy Hertzberg's proposal to his partner Andy Rollman.
The marriage bill was introduced by openly gay Council Member David Catania on October 6 with nine other members of the Council signed on as co-introducers including Council Chair Vince Gray. Another member of the Council has said he will vote for the bill meaning eleven of the thirteen council members are on record as supporting marriage equality.
The hearing before the Committee on Public Safety began on October 26 and continued on November. With over 250 people signed up to testify, it was the largest hearing in Council history. The Committee will vote on the bill on November 10.
Pro-equality witnesses dominated the first hearing day with ten of the first fifteen witnesses supporting marriage including Rev. Rob Hardies, Co-Chair of DC Clergy United for Marriage Equality.
With broad support on the Council for the bill, marriage equality will pass in DC. We do, however, have two remaining challenges: anti-gay activists have pledged to use race and class to try to divide the city and are encouraging Congress to intervene to overturn marriage once it has passed the Council.
Because DC is not a state and does not have legislative autonomy, laws passed by the City Council are subject to a thirty day congressional review period. The review period is thirty legislative days rather than calender days meaning the review period will likely last about two months depending on when the bill is sent to Congress. During the review period, Congress does not have to approve the bill. They don't even have to discuss it. If they take no action, the bill will become law.
Bishop Harry Jackson and National Organization for Marriage have teamed up with Jackson moving from Maryland to DC specifically to oppose marriage equality and NOM moved its headquarters to DC to use its $6 million budget oppose marriage in the District and to fight attempts to repeal DOMA.
Harry Jackson testified on the first day of the marriage hearing calling for a Prop 8 style vote on marriage and got more than he bargained for in Council Member David Catania. After Jackson's patronizing and selective history of DC's quest for voting rights, Catania asked
Bishop, are you aware of the last time an 'advisory referendum' was placed on the ballot in the District that attempted to diminish the rights of a minority?
To say Jackson was left dazed and speechless, would be an understatement.
Also testifying on the first hearing date was YouTube sensation Ms Ernestine Copeland:
The second hearing featured the marriage proposal and a David Catania smack down of NOM's Executive Director Brian Brown.
We have a strong shot at winning and keeping marriage equality in DC, but we still have a lot of work to do. We must continue outreach to communities of color and communities of faith to educate other District residents about why marriage is so important to gay and lesbian families.
In the next few days we expect a decision from the DC Board of Elections and Ethics on whether or not there will be an initiative to ban marriage equality. We expect the decision to go in our favor, but Jackson and his backers at NOM have already said they will file a lawsuit to further their anti-gay efforts.
Marriage equality isn't a done deal in DC by any measure. To find out more about how you can get involved, join the DC for Marriage Facebook page.