UPDATE: Bishop Chane, Diocese of Washington (DC) issues statement on marriage equality bill passage - see below:
The Washington, D.C., City Council voted Tuesday to legalize gay marriage in the nation's capital, handing supporters a victory after a string of recent defeats in Maine, New York and New Jersey.
Mayor Adrian Fenty has promised to sign the bill, which passed 11-2, and gay couples could begin marrying as early as March. Congress, which has final say over Washington's laws, could reject it, but Democratic leaders have suggested they are reluctant to do so.
The bill had overwhelming support among council members and was expected to pass, though opponents have vowed to try to get Congress or voters to overturn it.
Box Turtle Bulletin reports:
Congress will have 30 days after Mayor Fenty signs the bill to reject it. Otherwise the District of Colombia will join Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut in allowing same-sex marriages at some point early in 2010.
Episcopal Bishop of Washington "supports and celebrates"
passage of legislation permitting same-sex marriages
December 15--The decision of the City Council of the District of Columbia to pass "The Marriage Equality Act" guarantees all couples, regardless of sexual orientation, the right to contract civil marriage within the District. I support and celebrate this decision because it ends discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. For too long, these couples have been denied rights that heterosexual couples take for granted, such as spousal health and pension benefits, and the right to make crucial medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner. They have also been denied the recognition that their relationships are every bit as important, and every bit as life-giving, as those of their straight friends. While no law, in and of itself, can change social attitudes, this one sends a powerful signal that the District of Columbia stands against prejudice and on the side of equality.
It must clearly be understood that this legislation is authoritative only in the civil sphere. No member of a religious denomination or faith tradition is required to act as an agent of the District in officiating at or witnessing to such marriages. We are bound only to recognize the civil rights of every human being, regardless of sexual orientation.
As the Bishop of Washington, my policy is to permit the blessing of same-sex relationships. After a period of study and consultation, I will be announcing whether our clergy will be permitted to solemnize same-sex marriages, and sign marriage certificates, as is done in several Episcopal dioceses where same-sex marriage is already legal.