A Washington D.C. panel has unanimously ruled against allowing a referendum aimed at repealing a bill that recognizes gay marriages performed in other states and countries to go before voters, the Washington Post reported.

The Washington D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics agreed with city lawyers and gay rights advocates Monday that such a referendum would violate the District's Human Right Act of 1977 that prohibits discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation.

“Because the referendum would authorize discrimination prohibited by the HRA, it is not a proper subject for referendum, and may not be accepted by the Board,” the ruling states.

City Council members approved the law in a 12 to 1 vote last month, with former Mayor Marion Barry the lone dissenter, and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, signed the bill. But because laws passed by the District are subject to a 30-day review period by the U.S. Congress, the bill won't become law until after the review period expires or Congress acts. Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican, has introduced a bill that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the District of Columbia. Democratic leaders in Congress, however, are unlikely to act on the bill.

Bishop Harry Jackson of the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville had organized the group of mostly African-American ministers in favor of challenging the bill. The ministers say recognition of out-of-state legal gay marriages is just the first step towards legalizing gay marriage in the District, an accusation council leaders do not deny.

Council member David A. Catania (I-At large), the sponsor of the bill, has said he will introduce a gay marriage bill.