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Group Asks for Referendum on Same-Sex Marriage

A group of ministers and same-sex marriage opponents filed a request today calling for a citywide referendum on whether the District should recognize gay marriages performed in other states.

The group, Stand 4 Marriage, said it will begin collecting signatures to try to force the issue onto the ballot. Earlier this month, the City Council and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) agreed to recognized gay marriages performed elsewhere.

The opponents formally requested today that the Board of Elections convene a meeting to decide whether the issue is eligible for a referendum. If the Board agrees, the opponents will have to collect signatures from 5 percent of registered voters. If an election is called, the legislation will be stayed until that referendum occurs, the opponents say.

"The recognition of same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia is a bad idea for our citizens. At a minimum, it should not be allowed without the approval of voters," said Bishop Harry Jackson, Senior Pastor of Hope Christian Church "Thirty states in America have voted on whether gay marriage should be legalized, and every state has opposed it because legalizing gay marriage has significant consequences for society. It is only right that voters in the District of Columbia also be allowed to vote on this important issue before it is imposed on its residents."

Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), the sponsor of the legislation to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere, said he is bewildered by Jackson's strategy. Noting the District's progressive reputation, Mendelson predicted District voters would reject efforts to stop same-sex marriage.

"It is certainly within their rights to seek a referendum, but I think the sentiment of the community is pretty clear," Mendelson said.

Mendelson also said city officials should closely scrutinize whether the issue belongs before voters.

"The experience of these kinds of referendum in other states is they are very divisive and sometimes bring out the worst in the debate," said Mendelson, who added, "Civil rights shouldn't be subject to referendum."

But Jackson said he's confident he can prevail, despite the city's liberal reputation, if the Board of Elections allows the question on the ballot.

"I was involved in Florida, we beat them with 61 percent of the vote. In California, supposedly the most liberal state in the union, we got over 50 percent," Jackson said. "In the District, you got 55 percent African-American, a growing number of Hispanics, an immigrant community that is by in large not pro-gay marriage... and you have a strong Roman Catholic population, all of whom, if organized and talked to, would stand up for this measure."

--Tim Craig

By Tim Craig  |  May 27, 2009; 3:52 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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Excellent. Then right after that I'd like to call for a referendum on interfaith marriages. And interracial marriages. And marriages between tall people and short people.

Basic human dignity and rights are not subject to popular vote. Did we not learn this during the Jim Crow years? No?

It's stunning, really. A few short years ago the majority of DC would have voted against equal rights for blacks in DC. Yet today those blacks (actually, most actually live in PG County) are now actively trying to suppress another minority.

Posted by: Hillman1 | May 27, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Is Harry Thomas a resident of DC? His church is located in Beltsville MD.

Posted by: sandy17 | May 27, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

correction - Harry Jackson.

Posted by: sandy17 | May 27, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Civil rights should not be subject to voter referendums.

Posted by: CrestwoodKat | May 27, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Putting controversial social issues to public referendum goes against the principles of a representative democracy.

The people of Washington, DC voted for the members of the DC Council. The Members of the Council voted 12-1 in favor of recognizing marriages from other states and the mayor was more than happy to sign that bill. If people are upset about it, vote for someone else in the next election.

If we had put everything up to public referendum, the US would never have gotten involved in either World War, and the North would never have engaged the South in the Civil war (all of which began wildly unpopular). Yes, I said it. Had the Civil War been put up for public referendum, we would still have slavery.

Had a public referendum been issued about whether or not to end segregation, or whether or not to issue voting rights laws for minority voters, we'd still be living in the Jim Crow Era.

History has a way of proving that the tough decisions are best left to our elected officials. It's why we have them there in the first place. When they get it wrong, we vote them out of office.

Gay rights advocates worked through the process in DC without needing "activist judges" to take the lead. They won a legitimate fight. Get over it.

Posted by: nwrepresent1 | May 27, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

To answer Sandy17, yes, Harry Jackson lives in DC even though his church is in MD. I don't know if putting this issue to a vote will be good for his cause though. DC is very very liberal--more liberal than CA even. DC could easily vote in favor of same-sex marriage with a comfortable victory margin.

Posted by: forgetthis | May 27, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Has "Stand 4 Marriage" taken a stance on divorces? If not they need to slink away.

Opposed gay marriage because it "has significant consequences for our society". Yeah the consequence is that people who are commited to each other can be formally/legally recognized. Oh the horror. Can't imagine how people who are so-called Christians can be so hateful to one group of people.

I'm a single straight unmarried woman and I'm offended when people act like marriage is so sacred. It's a state sponsored function just like getting a drivers license.

Posted by: rlj611 | May 27, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

From Hillman: "Yet today those blacks (actually, most actually live in PG County) are now actively trying to suppress another minority"

I understand the frustration, but to the extent we can avoid dividing the city along these lines we should.

Which is why I welcome a referendum. I think the people organizing this will lose, and lose big. I don't think they realize or expect that at all. Then the rest of the country can see that a city that is majority African-American is as progressive as any place else in the country, and there's no reason to buy into silly stereotypes like "black people don't like gay people" in perpetuity.

Posted by: kszimmerman | May 27, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I, johng1, call for a referendum on religious ministers who don't pay taxes. We need to rid our city of these parasites.

Posted by: johng1 | May 27, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I just love when these "holier than thou" religious types use their religion as a justification for their bigotry, discrimination, insensitivity and plain old ignorance.

Posted by: dottie20 | May 27, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Our city is on the march toward marriage equality, and these zealots will not be able to stand in our way.

Tim, do you know how many registered voters there are in DC? I'd think it has to be a few hundred thousand, which makes getting five percent of their signatures a monumental task.

Posted by: leeberger | May 27, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow, you cares what these disgusting "preachers" have to say about anything?

Oh wait, they have undereducated followers who listen to what they say.

Posted by: kenk3 | May 27, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

You mean these preachers would disallow T.D. Jakes recently arrested soliciting homosexual son the right to marriage?

There are those within the pulpit of the District (the preachers) who are married to women but consumate with men. Do they find this to be "healthy" married behavior.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | May 27, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse


DC has 415,386 registered voters, 5% is 20,769, so figure you need 30,000 in order to get enough valid signatures.

The steps involved in qualifying for the ballot are designed for an initiative, which isn't time sensitive. A referendum--a repeal of a bill that has passed in DC and is in the Congressional review period--has far too many steps to go through before you can even start collecting signatures. It may not be possible to get through all of the steps before the review period ends and the bill becomes law. Rev. Jackson wasted 3 weeks before filing. He is almost certainly out of time.

Posted by: dcbob99-post | May 27, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah concerned - remember that one who was forced to leave the catholic church for deviant behavior (little boys IIRC) and he started his own church? ha ha ha

Posted by: johng1 | May 27, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

It's ironic that so many "christian" clerics have so much time to oppose gay marriage. I guess helping the poor, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, aiding drug addicts and other christian mandates take no time at all to resolve. Let's tell all the DC homeless to run to maryland so that rev jackson can cure all their ills.......unless of course, they happen to be gay. jackson is a complete buffoon, a condition that is inherent and cannot be treated.

Posted by: bob2davis | May 27, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Stallings! (I just remembered his name)

Posted by: johng1 | May 27, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Once again people like "Bishop" Jackson claim that recognition of same-sex marriage is "bad for our citizens" but offer no logical basis for that argument. If there is a basis, I'm sure he could find it in Massachusetts, which has allowed same-sex marriage the past few years, though I'm sure he'd come up empty handed if he sought evidence there. No doubt, his position is based on the usual religious arguments that are cited when bigotry is defended by good Christians -- and we know that religion has never been wrong in defining what's best for society.

Posted by: eomcmars | May 27, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I'd be happy to put same-sex marriage on a referendum, just as soon as the people who oppose marriage equality identify which of their rights they are willing to subject to majority (mob) rule.

Legalization of mixed-race marriage was a huge change in the social and legal definitions of civil marriage when the Supreme Court decision ending anti-miscegenation laws was issued in June, 1967. Having grown up in the South, I remember quite well the anger and revulsion that decision begat. I also remember predictions of the end of marriage in America, of forcing religious institutions and members of the clergy to perform marriages to which they were opposed, and the complete corruption of American society -- all of these arguments fervently believed by a rather large majority of American citizens at that time.

We now look back at those arguments and attitudes with appropriate shame and bewilderment, and we have learned that our society not only survives great social upheaval, we grow and prosper as a compassionate and ethical people as a result of that upheaval.

If even one person could provide a logically defensible reason to justify the continued abridgment of the right to civil marriage for same-sex couples, I would love to hear it. Mostly I have heard that God doesn't allow it, that homosexual people are icky, and that some people are uncomfortable with the idea. Not one of those arguments is supported by sound logic.

I don't wish to harm anyone. I do not wish to harm the institution of marriage. I simply wish to have my 10-year relationship given the same legal rights and recognition as opposite sex couples (many of whom, in my opinion, take those rights for granted).

What is so frightening about that?

Posted by: kpharmer | May 27, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

It's not entirely clear from the posting, but have they actually filed the referendum proposal with the Board or are they requesting this hearing without having done so?

Posted by: aaronflynn | May 27, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

"Then the rest of the country can see that a city that is majority African-American is as progressive as any place else in the country, and there's no reason to buy into silly stereotypes like "black people don't like gay people" in perpetuity."

You have a point. I should have taken the time to reiterate that many blacks in DC are quite welcoming of gay people.

But I do have to say that every single example of anti-gay behavior I've ever seen in DC has been from black people. From the DC DMV clerk that snickered when my friend gave his Dupont Circle address, asking him him if he liked 'little boys'...., to the onerous language and idiotic fighting of gay bar liquor licenses from so many black churches.

And, as far as blogging goes, it's not ironic if whites try to deny rights to blacks, since whites didn't, as a general rule, suffer under Jim Crow, slavery, etc.

That was the point of my post - the irony. I didn't mean to imply that blacks are monolithic in their views, just as no group are. And all you have to do is cross the river to NOVA to see a lot of whites that hate on gays.

Posted by: Hillman1 | May 27, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Let's hope they do get a referendum but liberals usually don't want to risk voter disapproval for their stupid policies.

Posted by: miyago123 | May 27, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

I am 61 years old, white, and I grew up in the segregated South. It boggles my mind to read Bishop Jackson, a black man, using anti-gay rhetoric nearly identical to the racist, anti-black rhetoric my fellow white Southerners were using to defend segregation 50 years ago.

Bishop Jackson, have you read the Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which struck down Virginia's prohibition of interracial marriage? If not, please do so. You anti-gay-marriage people cannot even argue, as Virginia did, that the prohibition of interracial marriage did not violate the 14th Amendment because it punished white and black equally. You are specifically targeting gays, and make no apology for doing so.

By the way, not that it is anyone's business, but I have been married to the same woman for more than 40 years, and I have never in my life had sex with another man. I have no personal stake in the gay marriage debates, except insofar as I wish to take our nation's Constitution seriously.

Posted by: GordonCash | May 27, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Despicable hypocrisy. Had the nation put to a vote whether or not to free slaves, where would we be? Yet, the sons and daughters of former slaves assemble and pin their hopes on the fact that D.C. is majority Black and strongly Catholic (this is rich). Where is the leadership from Howard University? For those who argue that there is a diversity of opinion in the Black community, let's hear it. Gay persons are human beings. Period. Protect them as the constitution mandates.

Posted by: medogsbstfrnd | May 27, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

this makes me livid. my partner and i got married in California last august - one of the 18,000 couples. we deserve to be recognized in this city, which we love and support (and pay taxes). how dare these preachers.

i will bring a referendum to not allow double parking at all the churches in DC. find parking like everyone else! better yet. go back to MD...we don't want you here!

Posted by: kmgdc | May 27, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

From Hillman: "But I do have to say that every single example of anti-gay behavior I've ever seen in DC has been from black people. From the DC DMV clerk that snickered when my friend gave his Dupont Circle address, asking him him if he liked 'little boys'...., to the onerous language and idiotic fighting of gay bar liquor licenses from so many black churches."

Yep, there are stupid people everywhere, and I'm sorry. I think the operative word here, though, is "churches". I've no problem with religious people who preach tolerance, but if it weren't for the fact that some black people also define as evangelical this wouldn't be an issue at all.

Posted by: kszimmerman | May 27, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

For preachers I don't think this is as much about their abhorrance for homosexuality as it is about them finding a theme to keep their hypocritical congregations stoked and feeding the collection plates.

If you have ever had the displeasure to attend the circus that has become the "black church" you will find that at the most attended venues there is a salavating pork stuffed greasy hate monger, speaking in faux tongues, stirring the luciferian (Mon-Sat) christian (Sun) into a Piranhic feeding frenzy.

The black church is no more interested in the Gospel of Jesus Christ than Kim Jong Il is in singing America the Beautiful.

You don't put a civil right up for a public referrendum. If all the public disapproved of slaves being freed, should a referrendum be put forth to roll back the 13th Amendment of the Constitution and reinstate Jim Crow?

The "black church" has become an embarrassment to the concept of equal justice under the law. They now openly endorse discriminate against a social class of Americans.

Irrespective of where you stand on the gay issue, this, from the church, is on it's face wrong.

May they all go, to whom they spend the majority of their time focused on (Mon-Fri).

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | May 27, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

kudos to Harry Jackson!!!

Posted by: thorhero | May 27, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Great idea, ministers! Rip up our Constitution and put everybody's rights to a vote, one at a time. We can all be control freaks and get in everyone else's space. Equal opportunity codependent emotional messes, just like you guys.

I and the rest of the MAJORITY who do NOT go to your church, for instance, can vote on whether or not you get to go on practicing your religion! What, you say that's protected by the Constitution? That silly document that says "all men [and later women] are created equal"? Oh, but we're RIPPING THAT UP. WE ARE COMPOSTING IT AND PUTTING EVERYONE'S RIGHTS TO A VOTE! GOT IT?

Posted by: B2O2 | May 27, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Once again - those who are holier than though - are trying to take away the rights of others - it's time the people have a referendum taking away the rights of tax free status to be removed - I left organized religion because of the hate that is spewed forth like venom. These people need to sit down and read their history book (the Bible) - how can these so called lovers of all spew forth their hate? Get a life and do something good with the money you steal from others

Posted by: wt0952 | May 27, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

"Let's hope they do get a referendum but liberals usually don't want to risk voter disapproval for their stupid policies.

Posted by: miyago123"

miyago, what is stupid about the idea of equal protection of the laws? What is stupid about legal recognition and protection of same-sex families? Are our children less deserving of the benefits given to legally recognized families?

Posted by: kpharmer | May 28, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

I am happy to finally see readers proposing the repeal of the tax-deduction for churches.
Assuming a marginal tax rate (on average) of 30%, that means that for every $100 going into the collection plates of these church businesses (for that is what they are) $30 is coming from you and me, the humble taxpayer. This is particuarly galling when they are using much of that $30 to engage in hate speech and promote political positions that I (and many others) find repellant.
And, if the federal governemt is, in effect, subsidizing these religious businesses by 30%, how on earth can that be in compliance with the 1st Amendment to Constitution?
It is time for the country to debate this issue at last.

Posted by: jimmywitz | May 28, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

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