On Wednesday night, hundreds of supporters gathered at the True Reformer building at 12th and U Streets NW to cheer the introduction of pending legislation for achieving civil marriage equality in the District of Columbia.
The event led off with an impassioned speech by a guest of the City, Rev. Eric P. Lee, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Lee outlined 5 basic tenets for the marriage equality movement to follow: "education, for the purpose of organization, for the purpose of mobilization, for the purpose of agitation, for the purpose of transformation... in societal attitudes" toward LGBT citizens and same-sex relationships. In rebuttal to marriage opponents who seek to fracture DC along racial and religious lines, Lee invoked the powerful words of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Lee offered the perfect segue for pending marriage equality legislation with a rousing declaration that "the burden of discrimination is on those who are discriminating... Make the oppressor defend their discrimination! Make them look you in the eye. Make them engage you with respect."
The crowd then gave a lengthy standing ovation to DC City Council Member David Catania (At-Large), who is planning on October 6 to introduce the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009. Catania refuted incrementalism and delay with a bold approach, stating firmly that, "We're going to do this now. Not for ourselves, but for the young people who are now 16 or 20 years old, and who deserve to grow up in a more perfect community and society than we did." Addressing concerns over religious freedom, Catania noted that the legislation makes it "abundantly clear that no religious figures will be compelled... to provide their services to any marriage that they do not approve of" even while the legislation underscores that "we live in a secular society where our citizens are equal."
Catania was joined on the dais by fellow Council Members Michael Brown (At-Large), Tommy Wells (Ward 6), and Phil Mendelson (At-Large). Mendelson announced that the Council's Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, will conduct a full and fair process for considering the bill, which will include a public hearing at which he will allow all interested citizens to testify. Mendelson predicted that the bill would successfully pass the Council and projected that a solid majority of DC citizens would support its passage; however, he urged attendees to continue educating and solidifying public support across the District to strengthen the bill's chances of navigating successfully through a subsequent period of Congressional review.
The Convocation drew to a close with thunderous shouts of "Our Time is Now!" You can learn more about the campaign to support the pending DC legislation at dcourtimeisnow.org. And, of course, DC for Marriage will continue to build public support in the District for marriage equality - you can join our efforts by signing our pledge, becoming a fan on Facebook, and/or contributing a donation of any amount. With your support, we will achieve civil marriage equality in DC!