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Excerpts: Post Reporter Discusses Gay Marriage Bill

Washington Post staff writer Tim Craig was online earlier today to discuss the gay marriage bill to allow same-sex couples to wed in the District, which was introduced by City Council member David Catania (I-At Large) on Tuesday. Read the full transcript here.

Excerpts:

Washington, D.C.: Why do you think that the Human Rights Campaign is against a vote? Is there a belief out there that the general public will make a wrong decision?

Tim Craig: The argument against a vote is that a civil right should not be left up to a majority point of view.

Although they make the connection in a delicate way, they reference how civil rights gains in the South in the 1950s and 1960s would have stalled if left up to the will of the voters.

The Human Rights Campaign appears to be backed by DC law. Decades ago, City leaders inserted a provision into the code stating a referendum cannot be held on issue involving the Human Rights Act. Among other things, the act protects gays and lesbians from discrimination.

Upper Marlboro, Md.: Many, many black people are insulted by the desire of homosexuals to equate their sexual predilections with race and/or skin color. There are also many who feel that tolerance is a word that is meant to be used in it's oldest meaning: to put up with. Many of us have no need to keep homosexuals from engaging in civil unions, but marriage, and the assumption that the institution must be changed to include them because homosexuality is the same as 'blackness' and therefore this is a civil rights issue, that is insulting. They make no friends with that stance.

Tim Craig: This is an ongoing debate within both the African-American and gay communities. I know many gay leaders are sensitive of this point of view. And I know many African-Americans - even those supportive of same-sex marriage - share your views when it comes on this point. On the hand, many in the GLBT community feel strongly that struggle can easily be equated to the civil rigths struggle.

Alexandria, Va.: What about Marion Barry? Is he in favor? He's in the hospital now, isn't he? Which way will he go on it?

Tim Craig: Marion Barry told me the day before he went into the hospital he will not be voting for Catania's bill. But Barry stressed he would bitterly opposed to any effort by members of Congress to overturn the legislation once it is passed. Knowing Barry, however, you never can sure how he will vote until the moment arrives. I wouldn't rule him out yet as a possible vote in favor. If supporters can get Alexander and Thomas on board, will Barry really want to be remembered as the only council member to vote no? I'm not so sure he will, but we'll find out in about a month or two.

Washington, D.C.: You say that opponents of same-sex marriage have not gotten traction, but if three council members have backed off, isn't that evidence of some movement?

Tim Craig: They have backed off being listed as co-sponsors. But it's only 3 out of 13. And the three who are not cosponsors represent specific communities.

If the anti-gay marriage movement were strong, they would also be having some influence with the city council members who are elected citywide. But they are not. All five city officials elected citywide - Council chairman Gray, the four-at large council members and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) - remain strong supporters of the same-sex marriage legislation.

Arlington Gay: To Upper Marlboro. Coretta Scott King disagreed with you. And for the record, I was born gay. And I married my partner of almost 11 years ago over a year ago and the world did not end.

People need to understand we are asking for the civil marriage contract. NOT Holy Matrimony.

Tim Craig: I will post for Upper Marlboro to review.

Washington, D.C.: You answered the second part of the person's question earlier about what states allow same-sex marriage, but you forget to say that 40 states have voted (by popular vote or law) to define marriage as between one man and one woman...this is significant.

When the people are allowed to decide, they have always decided that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Tim Craig: This is true. But I don't think you can assume the result would be the same in the District since its entirely urban.

Lets consider Virginia's 2006 election banning gay marriage.

Although it easily passed statewide, the constitutional amendment lost by big margins both in Alexandria and Arlington. It also lost badly in majority-black Richmond city and Norfolk.

If you combine those areas, you kind of get the demographics of Washington D.C. That is why many people believe a referendum to ban gay marriage would fail in the District.

On the hand, voters in Los Angeles County narrowly approved Proposition 8 in 2008.

Could be an interesting election if it a referendum is called for D.C.

Washington, D.C.: According to some articles I saw online, the bill has a religious exemption, but also says if a church rents or lets the general public use its space, the exemption doesn't apply. So what happens to the churches that rent halls for wedding receptions or open up their churches for community meetings for the neighborhood?

Tim Craig: There are lots of questions on this. So I picked up the phone and called David Catania's office.

Here is their response: If they rent only to Catholics or to people within their denomination or faith, then they are not required to open it up to gay couples. But if the hall is available to the general public, then they cannot discriminate against same-sex couples.

Catania's office says most churches limit their receptions/events to people of the ssame faith. And those that open up their facilities to the general public already have to abide by the city's Human Rights Law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  October 8, 2009; 2:29 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig , same-sex marriage  
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