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Ward 5 Commissioner Pushes for Gay Marriage Ballot Initiative

A Ward 5 advisory neighborhood commissioner is trying to rally the public in an effort to compel the D.C. Council to place an initiative on gay marriage on the ballot in November 2010.

Last month, a law went into effect that allows the city to recognize gay marriages performed legally in other jurisdictions. Gay marriages still cannot be performed in the District, but the council is expected to take up such legislation when members return from a summer recess.

In June, a group of ministers tried to stop the recognition of same-sex nuptials from elsewhere with a referendum. But the Board of Elections and Ethics ruled that a referendum would amount to discrimination, going against the Human Rights Act, which prohibits such ballot votes to protect gays, lesbians and other minorities.

However, there was some dispute as to whether the same opinion would apply to same-sex marriages performed in the District, if legislation were approved by the council.

A council initiative could bypass that opinion and the need for 21,000 signatures for a referendum. It would also signal some compromise from the council, which voted 12 to 1 to recognize gay marriages from other jurisdictions. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) signed the legislation and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton applauded it.

ANC Commissioner Bob King is trying pre-empt any further legislation by trying to get other commissioners to approve a resolution in support of an initiative.

"This is designed to put pressure on the mayor, Eleanor and council members," said King in an interview. "This should not be decided by the council...This is probably the most contentious issue in the 21st century. Let the will of the people decide."

King sent out a news release about his efforts today.

He said he has sent the resolution to more than 270 commissioners and is also reaching out to civic organizations.

Gay rights advocate Peter D. Rosenstein, president of the Campaign for All DC Families, responded to the effort with a letter to all council members, urging them not to support it.

His letter says, "The reality is that our citizens, past leaders on the DC Council, along with progressive thinkers in the District of Columbia have understood that the rights of a minority should never be put to a vote of the majority. This can only lead to having the rights of a minority denied and that is unacceptable."

By Anne Bartlett  |  August 12, 2009; 1:10 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council , Nikita Stewart  
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It is amazing that Mr. King would find this the most contentious issue of the 21st Century. The simple issue of giving all Americans basic equal rights should not be contentious anymore. I think that Mr. King like so many others who see this as contentious confuse civil law with their personal religious beliefs or biases. No religion that believes that same-sex marriage is wrong should be compelled to recognize it. But clearly no religious belief should prevent people from being given equal rights under civil law.

I would think that the major issues of contention in the 21st century thus far are ones of war and peace, how to guarantee health care for the 46 million Americans who don't have it- how to make sure that all of our children have a decent education and food on their table- Those are the real issues of the 21st Century and not marriage equality.

Mr. King is clearly anti-gay and tries to cover this with pretty language. I am sure that most people in DC including ANC commissioners will see through this. Also that fact that Mr. King and other anti-gay individuals want to put pressure on the Mayor, the Congesswoman and Councilmembers is their option, but I have confidence in the ability of these individuals to stand up to bigoted pressure and still do the right thing.

The time is now to put an end to racism, sexism and homophobia and I hope that the progressive thinking people in DC will do that. We will all benefit if they do and our City will become an even better place to live. Let's not give credence to those who would try to do otherwise.

We as a society should never allow the rights of a minority to be voted on by the majority. To do so even today would in parts of our nation remove rights that have already been bestowed on other minorities.

Posted by: peterdc | August 12, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Wondering after reading the words of the first commenter is it so easy to call someone who's beliefs differ from yours a BIGOT! I'm starting to wonder is the true Bigotry coming from a group of folks who wish to live Unnatural Marriages are the true BIGOTS in this Society. If they truly feel so strong on this issue than why not put it to the People of the District of Columbia? If your so strong in your convictions then you would also be strong in what America was truly founded for "The Will of The People!" If your truly a Patriotic American, then let the People decided this issue! This issue should not be brought in front of 12 People to decided the fate of over 700,000 people.

I have no RESPECT for anyone who chooses to push this issue in the backrooms of the Council Chambers then inflict it upon the Citizens of the District of Columbia. It shows true cowards and how they operate, more like Hitler than anything! This is not Democracy this is merely COWARDLINESS at its best! The People should have decided the first time to acknowledge the out of town marriages, and the People should be able to vote on the issues of Whether to allow Same-Sex Marriage in the District of Columbia. Not the Mayor, the Delegate Holmes, David Catania, or the rest of the Council! My vote will be NO so long as I don't get a chance to hear the issues and Vote for myself on this high profile matter!

Posted by: ifordc | August 12, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I am a citizen of the District of Columbia and do not see wanting to marry my best friend, my partner, as inflicting anything other than the same love a man and a woman share. You are the true coward ifordc. It amazes me that religious beliefs still drive how people feel their government should respond. Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?

Should allowing interracial marriages have been put to the people?

How is this not a civil rights issue? I am a human being, devoted to and in love more than I thought I ever could be, with my soon-to-be husband.

I'll be damned if I'll sit by idly and allow an issue of basic human rights to be campaigned to death by religious zealots claiming to do god's work.

Why not use that same energy to get god to help rid our streets of drugs and crime? And just how good and solid are your marriages?

Posted by: bf30qbl | August 12, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

P.S. You have a vote on this issue. Council members are elected by the people to represent them.

Posted by: bf30qbl | August 12, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Give me a break!

I've been busy all summer officiating for couples who are coming to CT to wed from all around the country, because they aren't allowed to do so in their own home states just yet.

And they are bringing their families and friends along to celebrate. And some of these couples have been together for 38, 45 and 46 years! Congrats to all.

Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace,
Washington, Connecticut, USA

And to the marriage foes, and sexually phobic, please find something else to do with your time, because life's too short.

Find love.

And remember, marriage is firstly a civil matter as marriage licenses are issued by and recorded in town halls not church halls in America.

Find love.....

Posted by: cornetmustich | August 12, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

"This is probably the most contentious issue in the 21st century. Let the will of the people decide."

Really? Millions in America are unemployed, do you they think they give a hoot about who does what in their own homes right now?

If you've been lost in the fog of self-righteousness, the issue of the 21st Century is turning out to be Health Care Reform.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | August 12, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

D.C. is now the Sodom and Gomorrah of the 21st Century.

Posted by: ricanndc | August 12, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

"D.C. is now the Sodom and Gomorrah of the 21st Century."

Making reservations.

The National Equality March is a scam - Cleve Jones has raised $250,000 and won't say what the money is being used for. An investigation is underway.

Once a hustler, always a hustler.

Posted by: AWWants2Know | August 12, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

I have studied history and folk lore for a long, long time - IF EVER there was a good time for Jesus to come back, IT IS NOW.

I'm making cookies. Come on everyone - Messiah time.

Posted by: AWWants2Know | August 12, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

I find it interesting that an ANC 5A commissioner is open to letting the people decide when I was one of "the people" originally invited and then dis-invited to do a presentation on marriage equality at the last ANC 5A meeting. Our objective was to provide education to "the people", but the commissioners stated that the issue of marriage equality was not an appropriate issue to be addressed by the commissioners. We had a power point presentation, a brochure (that none of the commissioners wanted to look at) a religious representative, legal representative and ward 5 residents in support of the issue ready to educate and inform "the people." But the commissioners did not think it appropriate. I have to admit I agree with peterdc, "We as a society should never allow the rights of a minority to be voted on by the majority."
As the ANC 5A continues with his efforts he will see that "the people" support human rights for all residents and "the people" know what the separation of church & state is for.

Posted by: crc48 | August 13, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

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