Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington, D.C., has signed a measure recognizing same-sex “marriage” in the District. The law has been criticized for redefining marriage and also for its lack of strong religious freedom protections for those who do not approve of such unions.
Fenty signed the measure at the Unitarian Universalist All Souls Church in the northwest part of the District.
In his remarks at the signing, provided to CNA in an e-mail from the mayor’s office, Fenty said:
“Marriage inequality is a civil rights, political, social, moral, and religious issue in this country and many nations. And as I sign this act into law, the District from this day forward will set the tone for other jurisdictions to follow in creating an open and inclusive city.”
Rev. Rob Hardies, senior minister at All Souls Church, said in a statement on the church's website that he was “so heartened” by the role his congregation has played in what he called an “important human rights struggle.”
He said congregants took a “leading role” in founding a coalition of about 200 District clergy to support the bill. They contributed money and lobbied for the bill.
“And not only have we secured passage of the bill, we have changed the national debate on marriage equality,” Rev. Hardies claimed. “We’ve shown that this issue can unite communities rather than divide them.”
The D.C. Council had passed the bill by an 11-2 margin, over the objections of many African American clergy, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and others.
"Politicians on the city council are acting as if they have the right through legislation to deprive citizens of D.C. of their core civil right to vote, but we will not let them get away with it, commented Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, according to CNN.
Though the bill itself is titled the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, the Archdiocese of Washington has said its protections for religious freedom are not strong enough. Its effects could force Catholic Charities and other religious organizations to cut back their services if they do not accommodate same-sex “marriages.”
The measure now goes to Congress for a 30-day review period. Congress has the right to review and overturn laws created by the D.C. council. The Democrat majority is not expected to block the bill.