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Gertrude Stein Club Backs Gay Marriage

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club voted last night to endorse same-sex marriage in the District, clearing the way for a broader debate within D.C. Democratic State Committee over the issue in the coming weeks.

Jeffrey Richardson, the club president, said it is believed to be the first time that the organization, which was founded in 1976, has gone on record in support of same-sex marriage.

"Obviously, equality has come up over the years and was discussed, but in recent years we have not voted or taken a stance," Richardson said. "Now, clearly, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club supports marriage equality and is now in a position to move forward and advocate for marriage equality."

But before taking a final vote on the resolution, the members voted to step back ever so slightly from the looming fight in City Hall over legalizing same-sex marriage in the District. An initial draft of the resolution called on the D.C. Council to take up the legislation and for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to sign it.

The club decided to strip out the language dealing with the Council and mayor, presumably to give lawmakers some political cover to decide on their own the proper timing of the legislation.

"We have some time," said Richardson, who added the club could take another vote at a later date explicitly calling on the Council take up the issue.

Two weeks ago, the District Log Cabin Republican Committee sent out a statement urging the Council to approve a gay marriage bill.

Before last night's vote, Council members David A. Catania (I-At large), Phil Mendelson (D-At large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) spoke to the members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic club. During their remarks, Mendelson and Catania appeared to have somewhat different opinions on when the Council should debate the issue.

Mendelson, who sponsored the bill pending before Council that allows the District to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere, stressed gay Democrats need to be organized to combat potential opposition.

"I have said all along, the primary concern I have is strategy," said Mendelson, chair of the Public Safety and Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue. "We can expect some pushback...We don't know how much we will get. We've got to make sure whatever we do (get), we're covered."

Catania reiterated he is ready to push the issue soon, regardless of potential obstacles on Capitol Hill.

"We know the arguments. We know the opponents," Catania said. "We are either up for them or we are not. I say now."

In one awkward moment, Catania took credit for prodding his colleagues on the Council to take up the issue this year.

"I have intentionally been pushing, been pushing, been pushing to push my colleagues, quite frankly, out of the comfort zone," said Catania, who then had to quickly explain he wasn't talking about Mendelson, who was standing next to him.

Graham, who like Catania is gay, took a more personal approach during his remarks.

"For someone like myself who has gone through every phase of gay," said Graham, noting he was once married to a woman and later in life headed up the Whitman-Walker Clinic during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s. "To reach the point that is possible that I am going to have the privilege of voting in favor of marriage equality, it is truly heart warming."

--Tim Craig

By Tim Craig  |  April 21, 2009; 7:31 AM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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I think the title of this article should be:

Gertrude Stein Club Finally Backs Gay Marriage

Posted by: DCCharles | April 21, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

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