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DC Council weighs civil unions, marriage

This is interesting. Should the District of Columbia Council vote to approve civil unions, or a full-blown marriage bill? It comes up for a vote on Wednesday. The divide in the gay community is whether to go for additional rights provided by civil unions (DC already has domestic partnerships), or dive into a marriage fight that could inflame the Right.

The civil union measure, authored by council member-at-large Phil Mendelson (D) has widespread support but granting full marriage has divided even the district’s gay community.

Civil unions would give same-sex and unmarried opposite-sex partners some of the broadest domestic partner rights in the country, including joint powers of attorney, tax benefits similar to those enjoyed by married couples, the right sue for negligence in the treatment or death of a partner and immunity for partners from testifying against one another. It also would provide for breakups including the right to alimony.

Independent Councilor-at large David A. Catania supports the measure. But Jim Graham (D) tells the Washington Post that he is “seriously considering” introducing a bill to legalize gay marriage. Graham tells the paper that his only hesitation is a division within the gay community over concerns a marriage bill would be vetoed by Congress and set in motion a national rightwing firestorm.

“Not doing what you believe in is a very uneasy feeling,” Graham told the Post.

Catania warns that “If the District trots out too far, we become a cause celebre for Congress to whip on.” A better strategy, he told the Post is to “try to make sustainable advances instead of ideal advances.”.

Catania, it should be noted, left the D.C. GOP over his opposition to Dear Leader’s positions on an FMA. He had raised over $50,000 for that campaign, before backing off when Bush called for a constitutional amendment. Catania was stripped of a seat as a delegate to the GOP convention.

Blenders, what do you think the DC Council should do? Congress has final say over D.C. laws, so it’s a shoo-in that a marriage bill would be deep-sixed hard. Look at the statements already coming out of Congress (WaPo):

“On gay marriage legislation, the council is well aware of the risks,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who has advised council members not to push the issue.

This year, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) warned that the city would trigger a sharp backlash from Congress if it pursued gay marriage.

Graham said playing it safe comes with its own risks. Congress could still find that the proposed incremental measures go too far. “We could end up in the same circumstance as we would have with a full gay marriage bill,” Graham said.

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Pam Spaulding

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