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."
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