Gay Marriage Bill Takes Effect in Nation's Capital

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WASHINGTON - A law recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries went into effect Tuesday in the nation's capital, and a D.C. councilman said he plans to follow up with a measure that would allow gay marriage ceremonies in the district.

The bill was approved in a 12-1 vote by the D.C. Council in May. Congress, which has the final say over the city's laws, had 30 days to review the legislation. Since it took no action, the bill automatically became law.

"I certainly believe that the fact that we got here is a great victory, that we survived the congressional layover period," said D.C. Council member David Catania, who is fine-tuning a bill that would allow gay marriages to be performed in Washington. He said he intends to introduce the measure between September and the end of the year.

Under the law, gay and lesbian couples married in other jurisdictions are afforded the same benefits and rights as other married people under D.C. law. The law recognizes legal, same-sex nuptials in other countries as well as an estimated 18,000 such marriages that took place in California - such as Verratti's - before voters there approved a gay marriage ban in November.

Six states - Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire - currently allow same-sex marriage. New York recognizes gay marriages performed in other states.

During the congressional review period, some opponents of the D.C. legislation sought a referendum on the matter. The effort was spearheaded by Bishop Harry Jackson, who leads a church in Beltsville, Md., and charged that the D.C. Council sneaked the bill through without any public input.

The D.C. elections board ultimately rejected the proposal, saying that a referendum could authorize discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is prohibited under D.C.'s Human Rights Act.

Jackson and other opponents later filed a lawsuit against the city challenging the elections board decision and seeking a stay on the bill's implementation. The suit was dismissed last month.

Jackson said the decision hasn't discouraged him and he plans to continue his fight against same-sex marriage in D.C. He said Tuesday that he and his supporters are seeking a voter initiative that would affirm marriage between a man and a woman in D.C.

"We're going to focus on getting the whole issue before the people," he said.
     
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.

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