D.C. Councilman David Catania (I-at large) was presented with the Gerald Roemer Community Service Award today by the Department of Justice’s LGBT employee association, known as DOJ Pride, in recognition of his work to secure equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian residents in Washington.
The Roemer award is presented each year to individuals who have made significant contributions to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Last year, Catania, who is himself gay, was a driving force behind legislation to give same-sex couples the same marriage rights in Washington that heterosexual couples have. Despite a strong opposition effort led by Rev. Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church, Catania was able to marshal almost all of the other council members to vote in favor of the same-sex marriage bill. When the council voted in May 2009, the lone holdout was Marion Barry (D-Ward 8).
In a statement today, Catania said, “The successful campaign to achieve Marriage Equality in the District of Columbia was the result of the hard work of many people. The old saying, ‘many hands make light lifting,’ was never more true than when we began that effort more than a year ago. Thus, I will share this award with everyone who helped fight for equal marriage rights in the District.”
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., who spoke at the award ceremony, outlined a number of steps taken by the Justice Department to “address some of the unique challenges faced by members of our country’s LGBT community.” As examples, Holder cited the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the launch of the Justice Department’s diversity management plan, and the department’s determination that the Violence Against Women Act covers same-sex partners.
Holder said, “We’re working to ensure that the Justice Department lives up to its responsibility to provide a work environment where every employee is respected and given an equal opportunity to thrive. That’s the goal we share and the achievement we’ll keep working toward - together.”
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler also received the Romer award for issuing a legal opinion that said Maryland would recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the state.
Chris Hook, the president of DOJ Pride and a budget analyst at the department, received the James R. Douglass Award for his work to "reinvigorate," DOJ Pride in the wake of falling membership under Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales.