For Bishop Harry Jackson, the District
of Columbia pastor leading the fight against gay marriage recognition
in the city, next Tuesday's start of the law leaves him with few
friends and fewer options to contemplate.
On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Judith
Retchin upheld a ruling by the D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics
that stopped a referendum aimed at repealing a bill that recognizes
gay marriages performed in other states and countries from going
forward. The panel said the referendum would violate the District's
Human Rights Act of 1977 that prohibits discrimination based on race,
gender or sexual orientation.
Retchin's 15-page ruling was not only
broad, it chided opponents as well: “At bottom, the harm about
which petitioners complain is not based on a denial of the right to
referendum. Rather, they simply disagree with legislation enacted by
our duly-elected [city] council. A citizen's disagreement with
constitutionally sound legislation, whether based on political,
religious or moral views, does not rise to the level of an actionable
Jackson, backed by a team of
Christian-based Alliance Defense Fund lawyers, also petitioned the
court to stay the July 7 start of the law. On this issue, Retchin
questioned her authority to rule, and therefore denied opponents.
To stay the effective date of the law
might “encroach on the well-defined role of the Council and
Congress,” she said.
City Council members agreed to
recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere in a 12 to 1 vote in May,
with former Mayor Marion Barry the lone dissenter, and Mayor Adrian
M. Fenty, a Democrat, signed the bill. All laws passed by the
District are subject to a 30-day review period by the U.S. Congress.
That review period ends Monday.
Jackson and his supporters found a
sympathetic partner in Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican,
who introduced a bill in May (HR 2608) that would define marriage as
a union between a man and a woman in the District. But the bill sunk
in the Democratically-controlled Congress, where it managed to
attract few co-sponsors. Only 54 lawmakers, or 12 percent of the
House, supported the measure.
Jackson, who ministers at the Hope
Christian Church in Beltsville and whose radio commentary The
Truth in Black and White can be heard nationally, also received
an unfriendly welcome at the D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics,
which voted unanimously against him.
With less than a week before the law
goes into effect, Jackson and his supporters have run out of legal
options … at least for now.
The pastor says he will continue to
fight the law, and called Retchin's ruling “absurd.” “We will
definitely fight it – if that's the case – yes,” Jackson told
gay weekly the Washington Blade.
Alliance Defense Fund lawyer Brian Raum
said his group would work to have the law overturned with a ballot
initiative that would define marriage as a heterosexual union.
Council leaders openly acknowledge
their next move is to legalize gay marriage in the District.