Ward 8 Democrats Act Ahead of D.C. Council Legislation
Posted on May 17, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
The District’s same-sex marriage debate continued yesterday in the basement of a library in Ward 8, the predominantly African American community that council member Marion Barry invoked in justifying his recent vote against a bill to recognize gay marriages performed outside of the city.
But yesterday, gay rights advocates declared victory in a key battle to set the tone for the issue when the Ward 8 Democrats voted 21 to 11 to support the legalization of same-sex marriage, in preparation for legislation expected to be introduced in the D.C. Council this year.
The Ward 8 vote came after almost two hours of discussion about religion, referendums and civil rights among the crowd of about 100 people at the Washington Highlands Library on Atlantic Avenue SW.
Barry, who was scheduled to speak for the opposition, did not attend. Sandy Allen, a former council member and president of the Ward 8 Democrats, said Barry told her he had a doctor’s appointment.
More than a week ago, Barry drew ire and praise when he was the lone dissenter in a 12 to 1 vote to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. Barry, a civil rights icon and a longtime supporter of gay rights, said his vote represented the feelings of the predominantly black Ward 8 and, in a broader sense, most black people in the District.
Local gay rights advocates say there is some credence to Barry’s argument. A 2006 poll by a local group advocating same-sex marriage shows strongest opposition among black residents. Some of those sentiments were on display at yesterday’s Ward 8 discussion.
“We are not homophobic. We are not hatemongers. We love everybody,” said the Rev. Patrick J. Walker, chairman of a new task force of ministers opposed to gay marriage. The task force is part of the Missionary Baptist Ministers’ Conference in the region, which pressed Barry to vote against the same-sex marriage recognition legislation.
“It’s our position that this is an issue that should go before the people. Thirteen people . . . should not set the moral compass of this city,” Walker said, referring to the members of the council. He is the pastor of New Macedonia Baptist Church in Southeast.
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