Gay Marriage And The District

The D.C. Council just voted--unanimously--to recognize gay marriages from other states. The next step will likely be voting to legalize gay marriage period. Andrew frets:

This is particularly appealing to the Rove wing of the GOP, because they can use black homophobia as a wedge issue. DC is a perfect place to pit gays and straight, religious African-Americans, and we know that Republicanism as it has evolved under Rove is almost defined by finding groups of Americans to pit against each other.

Hmm, not to minimize, but I don't think that's likely. Unlike, other municipalities, I don't think this is going to be a ballot initiative. Even if it were, the dynamics in a city like D.C. are unique. D.C. is a city that (with Congressional approval) passes it's own laws. Because of the relative size of the city, and it's history, I doubt a gay marriage initiative would play out like it would in, say, Alabama. You can be black and live in Alabama and never see anything like a Dupont Circle--or what Dupont Circle used to be, I guess.

It's not that there isn't any homophobia in black D.C.--there most certainly is--it's that the fight isn't exactly new in the city. There is no Phillip Pannell, for instance, in Alabama. State legislators don't have to deal with a Jim Graham, or a David Catania, in the way you have to in the District, given that there are only 13 members on the D.C. Council. Also, and I could be wrong about this, it seems like the politically active gay community in D.C. is as organized, and as powerful as they are anywhere else in the country. 

The other thing is that homophobia--intense as it is--doesn't trump all. Black people don't like Republicans--but black people in D.C. hate Republicans. Part of it is the truly ugly history of putting Southern bigots in charge of D.C.'s affairs. But more presently, Republicans are seen as the main obstacle between the city and statehood. D.C. may be the only place where Karl Rove could actually help gay marriage activists.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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