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D.C. Council Votes to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages Performed Elsewhere
Barry, a prominent figure during the civil rights movement, said that he "agonized" over whether to oppose the bill but that he decided to stand with the "ministers who stand on the moral compass of God."
"I am representing my constituents," said Barry, who later told reporters that "98 percent of my constituents are black, and we don't have but a handful of openly gay residents."
Civic activist Philip Pannell, who is openly gay and lives in Ward 8, called Barry's remarks offensive. "He of all people, coming out of the civil rights movement, should understand the need to fight for the rights of all minorities to be protected," Pannell said.
Catania and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) are the two openly gay members of the council, and Catania made it clear that he took offense at Barry's stance.
"This issue is whether or not our colleagues, on a personal level, view me and Jim Graham as your equals," Catania said, "if we are permitted the same rights and responsibilities and obligations as our colleagues. So this is personal. This is acknowledging our families as much as we acknowledge yours."
Barry, visibly upset, fired back that he has been a supporter of gay rights since the 1970s.
"I understand this is personal to you and Mr. Graham. I understand because I have been discriminated against," Barry said. ". . . I resent Mr. Catania saying either you are a bigot or against bigotry, as though this particular legislation represents all of that."
Catania replied: "Your position is bigoted. I don't think you are."
The tenor of the debate was equally heated outside the council chamber.
"We need a new council. They are destroying our youth," a same-sex marriage opponent, Paul Trantham of Southeast Washington, shouted in the hallway during the ruckus. "Every minister who fears God should be here. This is disrespectful to the nation's capital. There is nothing equal about same-sex marriage."
This week, more than 100 black ministers signed a letter to Fenty opposing the measure.
Council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) accused some of the black ministers of questioning her religious commitment and threatening to unseat council members who supported the bill. "The ministers have really upset me to a point they have questioned my Christianity, they have questioned my morality," Alexander said.
The Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement criticizing yesterday's vote as showing "a lack of understanding of the true meaning of marriage."
Outside the Wilson Building, Steven Gorman of Crestwood in Northwest Washington stood quietly holding a "marriage equality" sign. "I've been out for 25 years, and I've been battling for 25 years," said Gorman, who married his partner last summer in California. "This is not over, but we are winning."
Staff writers Hamil R. Harris and Paul Kane contributed to this report.