Washington Mayor Fenty signs same-sex marriage bill

Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty signs into law the Marriage Equality Act in the sanctuary of All Souls Unitarian in Mount Pleasant. In addition to members of the D.C. Council, the mayor's parents attended the event.
By Tim Craig, Nikita Stewart and Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty on Friday signed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the District, equating the hurdles confronting gay couples to those his parents faced when they married four decades ago as an interracial couple.

With his parents and D.C. Council members looking on, Fenty (D) signed multiple copies of the bill in the sanctuary of All Souls Unitarian church in Mount Pleasant -- a location he said he selected as representative of the many churches that embrace gay rights.

Fenty and other city officials said they want the District to provide a road map for gay rights activists as the debate over same-sex marriage -- now legal in only a handful of states -- moves across the nation, including possibly to Maryland.

"Marriage inequality is a civil rights, political, social, moral and religious issue in this country and many nations," Fenty said. "And as a I sign this act into law, the District, from this day forward, will set the tone for other jurisdictions to follow in creating an open and inclusive city."

In an unusually emotional speech for Fenty, the mayor said his parents moved from Buffalo to Washington in 1967 because they wanted to marry and their parents were furious about their interracial relationship.

"My parents know a little something about marriage equality," Fenty told about 150 activists and gay couples who crammed into the church.

Phil Fenty, who is black, and Jan Fenty, who is white, said they had not attended any other bill-signing ceremony in the three years their son has been mayor. But they had to be there Friday, they said, and they were proud that their son had embraced the lessons of equality he was taught as a boy.

"We just lived our lives. He saw it, and now he's living it," said Jan Fenty.

Fenty's signature means the bill, approved Tuesday in an 11 to 2 council vote, will become law in the spring if it clears a congressional review period. Fenty said Friday that he is almost certain that the Democratic-controlled Congress will not intervene.

Bishop Harry Jackson, a leading same-sex marriage opponent, issued a statement shortly after Fenty signed the bill, vowing to continue the fight in Congress and the courts.

"The people of D.C. do not support same-sex marriage, and they are entitled to vote on this issue," said Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville.

But there were signs that another controversy surrounding the legislation -- whether the Catholic Church will end its social service contracts with the city -- might be subsiding.

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