The decision to put the District within striking distance of legalizing gay marriage came about in a closed-door meeting Monday night between Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and members David A. Catania (I-At Large) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), sources say.
Knowing Vermont legislators could overturn the governor's veto of gay marriage in that state, the council had the opportunity to take a stand yesterday. Mendelson, whose Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary has been chipping away at laws against gays and lesbians for years, was already prepared to push legislation that would recognize gay married couples as domestic partners.
But Catania, who has been working on a gay marriage bill for months, wanted to go further and recognize them as "married." All three agreed, and their colleagues were on board by yesterday morning when they voted on an amendment that made national news. (Read story here.)
Catania, who is gay, was a Republican until 2004 when he became a vocal critic of President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment against gay marriage. Yesterday's political move was stealth, opponents say. The council's action allowed little political debate. But the council must take a final vote on May 5, leaving a month for opponents to mobilize. Congressional intervention is a possibility since all city laws are subject to review by Congress under Home Rule.