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Gray Stays Silent on Marriage Referendum

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) is steering clear - at least for now - of the debate over whether to put the same-sex marriage issue on the ballot.

Last week, Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) said she favored holding a referendum to ask voters whether the Council bill to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states should be overturned. Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) also hinted in a recent interview with the City Paper's Mike Debonis that he could be persuaded to support an effort to hold a referendum.

(Alexander and Thomas voted for the Council bill, but both are taking some heat from African-American ministers).

When asked today about his views on a referendum, Gray said, "I really haven't thought much about this."

Gray said he plans to talk to other Council members to gauge their views on a referendum.

"I really want to talk to members to see how they feel," Gray said during his monthly press conference, which was attended by several Council members.

Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), the sponsor of the bill to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, cringed when Gray did not rule out the possibility of a referendum.

Mendelson opposes a referendum, believing same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue that should not be left up to the will of the electorate.

--Tim Craig

By Tim Craig  |  June 1, 2009; 12:40 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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Harry Thomas is Ward 5, not Ward 6.

And Mendelson is correct here, civil rights should not be up for a referendum. Almost none of the major civil rights progress we made in the last century would have come about if it had depended on the popular vote. Chairman Gray needs to keep that in mind, and stop paying attention to these out-of-District rabble rousers rather than focusing on doing the right thing here.

Posted by: legalmoose | June 1, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

those ministers need to go back to whatever southern maryland watermelon patch issued them.

stay out of dc politics

Posted by: californicationdude | June 1, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

I believe that when he does take the time to think about it Chairman Gray will come to the conclusion that the rights of a minority should never be put up to the vote of the majority. Had we done this we would still have segregation. The greatness of our nation is that we guarantee everyone civil rights, even if it takes longer for some to get them, but it is done by either legilatures or the courts. I am honored to live in DC where it will be done by our legislature.

Again I am sure that Chairman Gray will agree when he does take the time to think about it.

Posted by: peterdc | June 1, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Time for the Elections Board to grow a set and stand up against discrimination. The DC Human Rights Act of 1977 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation:

§ 2-1402.11. Prohibitions.
(a) General. It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice to do any of the following acts, wholly or partially for a discriminatory reason based upon the actual or perceived: race, color, religion, national origin. sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibilities, genetic information, disability, matriculation, or political affiliation of any individual.

Posted by: watsonja | June 1, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Nobody has a "right" to change the definition of marriage. The claim that this is a matter of "rights" is preposterous.

Posted by: zjr78xva | June 1, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

This whole conversation is hurtful. There is no standard definition for marriage. Like all social norms it changes, and has changed and will change for example women are no longer considered the property of their husband. But beyond the academic arguments. This is about people, the lives of people that own property, that get sick, raise families, take vacations, have pets, serve their communities, and go to church. Some of those people are LGBT, and some are not. All people should be treated equally. If that means we extend to LGBT people then great, or if we retract it and reduce everyone to only having civil unions leaving marriage to a non legal ceremonial practice of any church that wants to have one. We simply can't have it both ways. We can't have Marriage for Bill and Linda, but not for Linda and Jane if we value their relationships the same. Even if one believes marriage is religious and defined in the tradition of religions, what happen when a church wants to marry gay people? Would we not value their religious beliefs? I hope the Chair rejects this referendum.


Posted by: robbycu | June 1, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

This is an easy call.

Ethics call for doing unto others as you wish others to do unto you.

Bigotry in defense of straight marriage or gay/lesbian preferences is indefensible.

Hiding behind one's sexuality or religion does not absolve the decency of recognizing much less seeing the human right found in 'same' sex marriages.

Posted by: capitolhilldc1 | June 1, 2009 11:33 PM | Report abuse

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