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 Stand4MarriageDC.com 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
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.”