Wedding Planners

Catania hints at movement with marriage-equality bill

by Will O'Bryan
Published on April 2, 2009, 12:00am | Comments

There was no press release, no big speech, no photo for posterity. Instead, it seems the meeting Councilmember David Catania (I-At large) called March 19 was merely an opportunity for Catania, who is gay, to provide an informal update on the likelihood of his introducing a marriage-equality bill anytime soon.

Catania's office would not comment on the meeting beyond Chief of Staff Ben Young saying that Catania has ''no definitive plans'' to introduce such legislation.

Lane Hudson, a Huffington Post blogger and one of the local activists who helped found DC for Marriage, a grassroots organization promoting marriage equality that has since become a program of the The DC Center, was at the March 19 meeting.

''The councilmember invited some activists for an update on where things stand,'' says Hudson. ''There was nothing super secret about it, no big strategy session. He didn't name a date.... He indicated it would be sooner rather than later.'' Hudson declined to name others who attended the meeting, though he did say there were about 10 activists present.

Frank Kameny, D.C.'s iconic gay-rights activist, said at the March 24 monthly meeting of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, that while he too had been invited to Catania's office, he did not attend. GLAA members briefly discussed Catania's meeting, albeit indirectly as the group had not been invited to attend.

''We would have welcomed being a participant in discussions as the legislation and the strategy progresses,'' says GLAA president Mitch Wood, adding that GLAA, which has long been involved in D.C. legislation affecting GLBT residents, has maintained ongoing communications with Catania's office. ''We have a track record of working for legislation that can be successfully supported.''

That caveat of ''successfully supported'' is at the crux of the local marriage-equality strategy debate. While it is generally agreed that the City Council would pass a marriage-equality bill, the next step in the process divides conventional wisdom. One side argues that the alignment of a gay-friendly White House and Congress, along with the political mood of the country, offers an unprecedented chance to secure marriage equality in this particular city, subject to congressional oversight and center-stage in the country's political discourse. The other side generally agrees with that assessment, but warns that more D.C. residents must be onboard to face down any possible challenge of a marriage-equality law being thrown out via a number of possible machinations.

Michael Crawford, another founder of DC for Marriage, won't confirm whether or not he attended the March 19 meeting but is happy to share his thoughts about marriage strategy.

''We're moving forward with building support in the District,'' says Crawford, pointing to DC for Marriage's new pledge campaign, ''I do in D.C.,'' which began March 28 by registering 600 supporters. ''We're focusing on those conversations we should've been having for a while, about why marriage is such an important issue for gay people.... No matter what the date, we're going to continue to do community-outreach work in support of marriage equality in the District. We're less focused on the Council than we are on the residents of the District.''

Hudson says the cautious point of view was part of the mix in Catania's office. He does not necessarily think it was a popular one.

''The prevailing opinion was that we should move forward now,'' says Hudson. ''If not now, when? We have the best possible political climate.''