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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two leading Republicans in the District have announced their support for efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in the city.

Robert J. Kabel, chairman of the D.C. Republican Committee, and Patrick Mara, an unsuccessful Republican D.C. Council nominee last year, pledged to lobby Republicans on Capitol Hill to stay out of the local same-sex marriage debate.

"On behalf of a large constituency of D.C. Republicans, we would like to thank you," the two wrote to D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) last week after he introduced his legislation. "We appreciate your efforts in supporting this long overdue legislation in the District of Columbia. . . . We would like to offer our support in aiding the advancement of this bill in Congress, particularly amongst Republicans."

Kabel is believed to be the only openly gay chairman of a state Republican committee in the nation. Mara, who is heterosexual, has been a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage. He is also widely believed to still have ambitions of joining the council.

The comments from Kabel and Mara put them odds with many of their counterparts in other state Republican committees and highlight the local party's progressive views on many social issues.

Still, local Republican officials are limiting the committee's role in the same-sex marriage debate. Although Kabel and Mara made public their letter to Catania, the committee does not plan to endorse his bill. The D.C. Democratic Committee approved a resolution this summer supporting same-sex marriage.

Catania, who is gay, was a Republican until 2004, when he quit the party in protest of President George W. Bush's call for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Graham Staffers Won't Testify

The two staffers for council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) who were subpoenaed in the U.S. investigation of the city's taxicab industry will not be testifying before the grand jury, according to sources in Graham's office.

David Vacca and Steve Hernandez, who work for the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, were scheduled to appear before the grand jury last Thursday.

But Hernandez, the committee clerk, and Vacca, a legislative analyst, were told by federal authorities they will not be questioned. Instead, Vacca and Hernandez turned over documents related to taxicab legislation that was pending before the committee, according to the sources, who asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to talk about the investigation.

Graham's chief of staff, Ted G. Loza, was arrested two weeks ago for allegedly accepting $1,500 in bribes to try to influence legislation favoring the taxicab industry.

Neither Vacca, Hernandez nor Graham has been charged with wrongdoing. The fact that Vacca and Hernandez will not be testifying could be an indication that the federal investigation is not heavily focused on Graham or his office.

After Loza's arrest, other indictments showed that the federal investigation expands into the taxi industry.

In addition to Loza, 39 men have been indicted on charges they gave D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Leon J. Swain Jr. more than $300,000 in bribes during a two-year period to get taxi licenses. Swain reported the bribery attempts and cooperated with federal agents to snag the men.

Staff writer Nikita Stewart contributed to this report.


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