Washington Post reporter Tim Craig was online earlier today to answer readers' questions about the D.C. Council's vote to legalize gay marriage in the city. Excerpts follow; read the full discussion here.
Southeast D.C.: So if all goes well, when can I marry my partner here in D.C.?
Tim Craig: Council officials believe that, barring a big battle over a lawsuit or intervention by Congress, same-sex couples will be able to marry in D.C. by mid spring, or perhaps late spring at the latest. It all comes down to how many days Congress is in session. Once the bill is signed by Mayor Fenty -- he has pledged to sign it -- Congress gets 30 legislative days to review it. So if Congress is in session a lot of days early next year, that process will be completed sooner than if Congress takes a bunch of days off. After the congressional review period is over, the bill becomes law.
Washington, D.C.: I wonder how long it will take for some Republican congressman from some place in the midwest to start legislation to disallow this so he can make a name for himself and put another nail in the coffin of D.C. statehood, just like what happened with the handgun ban.
Tim Craig: This question is key to both the short-term and long-term survival of same-sex marriage in the District. As is well known, Congress can overturn any law approved by the Council. Congress also has control over the D.C. budget. So even if Congress does not intervene in the bill before it takes effect next year, there is always a chance that a Republicans or Democratic member can seek to undermine same-sex marriage in the District at a future date. With a Democratic House and Senate and President, gay rights activists are fairly confident that the bill will not be threatened in the short-term. But what would happen if the GOP retakes control of both the House and Senate and the White House in 2012? I think it's harder to ban same-sex marriage once they have already started taking place but, as was the case in California, its not impossible either.
Fairfax, Va.: Please explain why some blacks in the city are not in favor of this and don't like gay rights to be treated the same way civil rights are.
Tim Craig: This question is probably better suited for a sociologist.
But, since you've asked, I would say it deals with the role religion plays in black culture and society. The two have been closely interlinked since slavery in this country. Other factors, such as education levels and income, also may come into play. In D.C., however, its wrong to assume all African-Americans oppose same-sex marriage.
In fact, I would argue D.C.'s black community is probably far more supportive of same-sex marriage than they are many other states or cities. More than black or white, this issue often comes to education, income and young versus
My colleague, Christian Davenport, explored this issue in a piece this morning. There is a split on this issue between older and younger African-Americans
Washington, D.C.: In your coverage of this historic vote, and the earlier preceding skirmishes before the Board of Elections and Ethics, what have you found most surprising?
Tim Craig: Two things. First, how little organized opposition there has been from members of the faith community and others.
The second is how, at the same time, the gay community seems sort of lethargic. Even though gays account for a sizeable part of the D.C. population, you often see the same 10 to 20 gay rights activists at all the meetings, hearings, etc...
Its almost like both sides consider this thing a done-deal so they don't really feel like fighting one way or another.