Columnist Petula Dvorak: Reality Makes D.C. Gay Marriage Debate Obsolete

By Petula Dvorak
Friday, September 4, 2009

The argument over whether same-sex couples should marry in the District is about a decade past its expiration date. The reality of people's lives long ago outstripped the usefulness of the gay marriage debate.

You can go to just about any public space in this city today and see same-sex couples: Two women picking over the tomatoes at the Anacostia farmers market; two men taking notes at a PTA meeting on Capitol Hill; two women arguing in a Georgetown restaurant over who does the dishes and who pays the bills -- the things all married couples do.

And these are things that most same-sex couples feel comfortable and safe doing practically everywhere in Washington. That's been the case here for at least a decade. The city boasts one of the most visible, vibrant gay and lesbian communities in the country.

The fact that some people love differently is a massive mental hurdle that most folks have cleared here in the nation's capital.

That's supposed to be the hard part, right?

Yet, instead of celebrating its progress, the city is tussling and tangling with the most mundane, fill-in-the-blank, check-the-box, sign-on-the-dotted line aspect of marriage.

In the coming months, D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) is expected to file a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the District. This follows legislation passed unanimously in May that recognizes marriages of same-sex couples performed in other states: Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, where Ben and Jerry temporarily changed their delish Chubby Hubby ice cream to Hubby Hubby to celebrate the legislation.

But Maryland Bishop Harry Jackson, who is mounting a campaign against the legislation, is trying to import a fear-mongering intolerance to a city that doesn't need it and shouldn't embrace it.

The Catholic Church haltingly, though not surprisingly, joined the debate-that-shouldn't-be-a-debate this week when Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl backed Jackson.

Our city council has two openly gay members, and an estimated 5 percent of the city's couples identified themselves as gay or lesbian in a 2000 Human Rights Campaign survey, the second-highest in the nation.

Most District residents are way past pretending that people such as Lisa and Stefanie Alfonso-Frank, the parents of two adorable little boys, don't exist. The family, which lives on Capitol Hill, is an integral part of the fabric of its community.

The women volunteer at the school workdays; they come to the neighborhood barbecues; they are members of the pool; and they hang around with other parents at the park trying to tire out their children before bedtime.

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