Monday, Oct. 26, is bound to be a red-letter day for plenty of locals interested in making marriage equality a reality in the District. The day will have the same significance for those hoping to maintain marriage inequality, as well.
In the morning, the action begins with a special board meeting called by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to determine whether the “Marriage Initiative of 2009,” filed by Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bob King (ANC 5A12), Rev. Walter Fauntroy and others, which seeks to enforce only marriages between one man and one woman as valid in the District, is fit for D.C. voters.
Mark Levine, among those who successfully blocked Jackson's summer referendum push to do as much, will also be at the morning meeting, representing the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city's primary LGBT Democratic club.
“I think Monday will be far easier than my task in July,” Levine says, pointing to recent legislation that, essentially, makes D.C. laws gender neutral. Beyond that, the former counsel to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) adds, “The (D.C.) Human Rights Act says you cannot have an initiative or a referendum that votes on people's civil rights.”
And then it's off to the meeting of the City Council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, where Levine will be joined by a large crowd of marriage-equality advocates and opponents testifying to the committee about Councilmember David Catania's (I-At Large) bill that would allow the District to grant marriages to people of the same sex, beyond simply recognizing such marriages performed elsewhere.
Michael Crawford, a founder of DC for Marriage, will be among those Levine will surely recognize at the committee hearing. Crawford's group, along with the Human Rights Campaign, Stein Democrats, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, Gay District, the DC Coalition of Black LGBT Men and Women, Log Cabin DC and the Young Democrats, are training people to testify at the meeting in favor of the bill.
“I'm feeling good,” says Crawford. “We have an extremely diverse group planning to testify. Christians, Jews, Muslims, people of all colors, young, old, gay, straight…. What we're seeing is the vast majority of residents supporting marriage equality, and people who are willing to step up.”
Among those planning to testify — drafted in the streets by Crawford Oct. 11 as the National Equality March was winding down — are Chris Collins and Joseph Towery, the married fathers of two little girls, Athena and Gabriela.
“We're a family of four and we need to protect our kids,” says Collins. “We need every right that we can get to make sure our family is safe. This official recognition is one more piece in that puzzle of us being able to provide the most secure home for our kids. And the public acknowledgement of our marriage is important as well.”
Though Monday will be busy, Commissioner King will get the first word in with a rally planned for Sunday, Oct. 25, from 2 to 5 p.m., at Freedom Plaza. They last word, however, at least for the time being, goes to DC Clergy United for Marriage Equality, offering “Soulful Voices for Marriage Equality: A Faith Celebration,” Thursday, Oct. 29, 7 to 9 p.m., at downtown's Asbury United Methodist Church.
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