Takoma Park on Monday became the first jurisdiction in Maryland to formally support same-sex marriage, less than a week after nine gay couples sued the state for the right to wed.
The City Council unanimously approved the measure, which also calls on the city clerk to file an amicus brief supporting the lawsuit of the gay couples. Although the move is largely symbolic -- only Maryland counties and the city of Baltimore can issue marriage licenses -- town officials wanted to register their support.
"We support marriage equality for all our citizens," said council member Heather Mizeur, an openly gay sponsor of the resolution. "Our goal now is to disseminate this to our colleagues in other municipalities and urge them to pass similar measures."
The famously liberal city, nicknamed "the People's Republic of Takoma Park," has long been a leader on gay rights issues, said Dan Furmansky, executive director of the civil rights group Equality Maryland. In 1988, Takoma Park was the first jurisdiction in the state to offer domestic health benefits to gay couples, he said. Larger jurisdictions, including Montgomery County, followed with similar policies.
At least one Montgomery County Council member said he doesn't plan to introduce a council resolution supporting same-sex unions, though he supports the right of gays to wed. "The battleground for this issue is Annapolis," said council member Tom Perez (D-Silver Spring), who represents Takoma Park.
City Council member Bruce Williams, a co-sponsor of the resolution who is gay, said constituents began raising the issue last year after Massachusetts's highest court struck down that state's ban on same-sex unions. Once they saw the mayor of San Francisco performing same-sex marriages on TV, he said, they asked why Takoma Park wasn't following suit.
"Gay marriage is a natural fit for Takoma Park," said Williams, 54, a general contractor whose family includes his partner of 26 years, two stepchildren and two grandchildren.
Williams and Mizeur said they have received supportive responses from constituents. But opponents of same-sex marriage said Takoma Park's position is "wrongheaded."
"There is no civil right to create experimental families and deny children their right to a mother or father," said Glenn Stanton, senior analyst for the Christian organization Focus on the Family.
Mizeur, 31, director of domestic policy for the office of Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said it has been difficult to listen to same-sex marriage foes this week as the Senate debated a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions.
She said the council's vote reminded her why she moved to Takoma Park two years ago.
"Takoma Park this week reminded me that it's a refuge," she said. "It's almost a protective bubble from the ugliness that surrounds us sometimes."