After back-to-back legal losses, opponents of gay marriage in the District of Columbia are pursuing a new legal strategy to block gay marriage in the city.

Members of filed a request Tuesday with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to hold a ballot initiative to ban gay marriage in the District.

The one-sentence initiative says, “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in the District of Columbia.”

Prompted by passage of a gay marriage-recognition bill, Bishop Harry Jackson formed the group in the spring. The law, which went into effect on July 7 after a mandatory federal 30-day review period, recognizes legal gay marriages performed in other states and countries, effectively allowing District residents to port a marriage from a nearby state that grants gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

Openly gay councilman David A. Catania (I-At Large) says he will introduce a gay marriage bill in the fall.

Jackson, who ministers at the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, and his followers began fighting the effort nearly as soon as it passed, but were left with few legal options as the law opened.

In June, the group appealed a ruling by the D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics that blocked a referendum aimed at repealing the law from going forward. The two-member panel said the referendum would violate the District's Human Rights Act of 1977 that prohibits discrimination based on race, gender or sexual orientation. Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin agreed with the board's ruling, and chided opponents: “At bottom, the harm about which petitioners complain is not based on 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 harm.”

Retchin noted the group was not being denied the right to initiate a referendum; advice the group followed on Tuesday with their motion.

“The D.C. City Council has stated that their intention is to redefine marriage by going beyond recognizing homosexual marriage[s] performed outside the District to advocating for them to be performed in the District,” said Jackson in a statement. “This redefinition of marriage will permanently impact D.C. businesses, schools, social activities, and the family unit without the voice of the residents being heard.”

“The initiative filed today would allow the people of the District to decide this important issue, not a 13-person panel,” Jackson added.

Referendum supporters, however, will face the same Board of Elections & Ethics and Human Rights Act roadblocks that stalled earlier efforts.

The panel is likely to take up the issue in October, the Washington Post reported.

“We believe the Board of Elections and Ethics … will decide that you, legally in D.C. cannot have an initiative depriving a protected minority of their rights,” Peter Rosenstein, president of the Campaign for All D.C. Families, a gay rights group, told the paper. “We believe that holding an initiative would be counterproductive and would unfortunately pit good people against each other.”

Still, Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl is taking a more visible role in the debate, urging Catholics to oppose gay marriage.

In a letter addressed to 300 priests, Wuerl writes that “marriage is a path towards holiness … so as members of the church we are obliged to be all the more attentive to the challenges that weaken marriage.”