Third time was not the charm for opponents of gay marriage in the District of Columbia. On Thursday, their latest effort to delay the expected March 3 start of a gay marriage law also ran aground.

In its third ruling on the issue, the Board of Elections and Ethics rejected opponents' latest attempt to place on the ballot an initiative that would ban gay marriage in the District. The board has consistently ruled that such a measure would violate the city's Human Rights Act (HRA) that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“The Referendum seeks to frustrate this effort, and would, if successful, have the effect of authorizing discrimination in contravention of the HRA,” the board said in its 18-page ruling. “Accordingly, it does not present a proper subject for referendum, and may not be accepted by the Board.”

Opponents have appealed the board's previous rulings to the D.C. Superior Court, and are likely to appeal its latest decision. In both cases, however, the court agreed with the board.

Previous decisions concerned an earlier law enacted by city leaders that recognizes gay marriages performed outside the District. Today's ruling sought to delay the start of a gay marriage law approved in December from taking effect until voters decide on the issue.

Republicans in Congress have also attempted to do away with the law. Utah lawmakers have led the charge both in the House and the Senate. Senator Bob Bennett and Representative Jason Chaffetz have both introduced legislation that would overturn the measure.

“The determination of marriage affects every person and should be debated openly, lawfully and democratically,” Bennett said.

Under Home Rule, Congress has final say on the laws approved in the District. But Congress failed to act last year when the District began recognizing gay marriages performed elsewhere. And both Republican lawmakers agree their resolutions are more symbolic than anything else.

“They're [Democratic leaders] not going to call up anything that's going to allow this to be heard,” Chaffetz told the Utah-based Deseret News. “I think they're very clear about that, because they're afraid of a vote. They're afraid of the public.”

Opposition to gay marriage in the District has turned Bishop Harry Jackson, a minister at the Hope Christian Church in Beltsvile, Maryland, into an anti-gay marriage celebrity. Jackson formed Stand for Marriage DC in the spring of 2009 and remains a leading voice against gay marriage in the District.