DC
04/29/2013 05:17 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2013

Jason Collins Gets Message Of Support From Marion Barry, Who Opposed Gay Marriage In D.C. (UPDATED)

WASHINGTON -- Among those issuing messages of support for Washington Wizard Jason Collins becoming the first openly gay male professional athlete in the U.S.: a D.C. councilmember who voted against allowing same-sex marriages in the nation's capital.

Former D.C. mayor and current councilmember Marion Barry once predicted that same-sex marriage could lead to "civil war" in the District; now he's suggesting that Collins work with him:

Same-sex marriage became legal in D.C. in March 2010 without the support of Barry, who was one of two councilmembers to vote against the bill.

In 2009, Barry -- who, as the Washington Post reported, previously supported gay rights -- was the only member of the D.C. Council to vote against recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Barry now seems more eager to highlight other parts of his political history:

Asked what sorts of collaborative efforts he has in mind, Barry told The Huffington Post that "the first level is to meet with [Collins], to talk about the various kinds of things that we can do."

"I want to congratulate him on his courage, in coming out of the closet, and urge others to do the same thing" Barry said, adding that he'd also like Collins, and his athlete colleagues, to meet with D.C. kids.

Barry also said that he does not consider himself to be, or have been, against same-sex marriage.

In 2009, when NPR asked Barry to reconcile his record on same-sex marriage with what was otherwise a history of supporting of gay and civil rights, he said he was "torn between that which I think is right, still think is right or may be right":

But we are a democracy, imperfect as it is, we have it, which allows for dissent. Then we are representative form of government. I represent at this time the 70,000 people who live in ward 8. At one point I represented 550,000 people living in Washington, I was mayor for 16 years. So, I think we've put that in a context. The other context we have to put it into is that the African-American community is very conservative on this issue. They are not only conservative on the issue of same sex marriage, they are conservative on civil unions, they are conservative on domestic partnerships. And I support all of that. So to question my advocacy in general is wrong. This should not be a litmus test.

On Monday, Barry used that same language when asked if his views on same-sex marriage had changed. Declining to describe his current views on same-sex marriage, he told HuffPost his 2009 and 2010 votes did not mean that he opposed same-sex marriage at the time, but rather represented "a right to dissent, is what I did...A right to dissent, it's as American as apple pie."

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