A Washington DC councilman has introduced a bill that will legalise gay marriage in the district.

Introduced this week by David Catania, the bill is tipped to pass, as nine of the council’s 13 members are listed as co-sponsors and mayor Adrian Fenty has clearly signalled he will sign it.

It receives a second and final council vote in December and will then go to Fenty for approval.

However, it must then be approved by Congress for a vote and a 30-day review. Observers have said it is likely the Democrat-controlled Congress will approve it.

Catania is one of two openly gay DC council members.

As he introduced the bill, he said: “This legislation paves the way for the equal access to civil marriage in the District of Columbia by defining marriage as a legally recognized union of two people, regardless of gender.

“The issue of marriage equality elicits very strong feelings and emotions,” he said.

“On the one hand, though, those such as myself believe marriage is a basic human right, which our civil and secular government is duty bound to extend to same-sex couples in the same manor that is made available to opposite-sex couples.”

DC already recognises gay marriages performed in other states where the practice is legal, which are Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It is legal in Maine but is on hold due to opponents getting it on the November ballot.

It means that same-sex couples in the district who are married can now receive more than 200 rights, benefits, and obligations associated with marriage under DC law.

However, as with states in which gay marriage is legal, couples will not be able to enjoy many of the 1,100 federal rights and benefits given to straight married couples, due to the Defence of Marriage Act.