Harry Jackson Fails to Sway DC Council

The D.C. Council voted 12-1 today to recognize marriages performed legally in other states.  The lone vote in opposition was that of former Mayor Marion Barry, who struck a more conciliatory tone than he did at last week’s anti-marriage rally, at which he led chants and urged preachers to speak out against “immorality.”  Today, Barry recounted his long support for efforts to advance LGBT equality during his years of leadership in the District, and asked people not to make this one vote a litmus test.

Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander had a different story to tell, noting that the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club (the city’s gay Democratic club) had endorsed her even though she had taken a stand in opposition to same-sex marriage in D.C.  On the other hand, she said, since she voted with her colleagues last month to have the District recognize legal marriages performed in other states, she’s had some pastors questioning her Christianity.  In response to those who have threatened to run a “Christian candidate” against her, she said, “I am a Christian candidate.”

A number of other Councilmembers spoke movingly on behalf of the legislation; we’ll have some video highlights available later.

The crowd organized by Bishop Harry Jackson was a different story.  Marriage opponents cheered Barry’s statement and shouted when Alexander spoke.  As soon as the vote was final and the capacity crowd moved into the hallway, raucous shouting broke out among those threatening to vote out every councilmember who had voted for marriage recognition.

Jackson spoke to reporters (describing himself as a D.C. resident) then headed across the street where an anti-marriage rally had been going on during the filled-to-capacity council meeting. Jackson led chants of “It’s not over” and vowed to pursue a legal strategy, a congressional strategy, and a strategy of continuing to organize at the grassroots. 

Oddly, the post-vote rally ended with a religious “marriage” ceremony for a young man and woman from Texas who came to DC and decided to go through the motions of a wedding ceremony presided over by Jackson to make a statement about “right marriage.”