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Ballot Initiative Requested on Same-Sex Marriage

Eight opponents of same-sex marriage formally filed a request today with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to hold a ballot initiative to stop efforts to allow couples in the District to marry.

The one-sentence initiative reads, "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in the District of Columbia."

After they dropped off their paperwork, the leader of the group, Bishop Harry Jackson, and the other members of the Stand4MarriageDC coalition stood at Judiciary Square chanting, "let the people vote."

"Citizens are determined to go to the ballot box on this issue one way or another," said Robert King, an ANC commissioner in Ward 5. "Why must the citizens of the District of Columbia be held hostage and treated like unintelligent...citizens."

The group, hoping to stall efforts in the D.C. Council to legalize same-sex marriage, is pushing to hold a referendum sometime next year. But the elections board must first rule whether the referendum request is valid. In the District, a referendum cannot be held on a matter that violates the city's Human Rights Act. In addition to other minority groups, the act protects gays and lesbians from discrimination.

In June, the board blocked an effort by Jackson to hold an initiative to reverse a council bill allowing the District to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The two-member board cited the Human Rights Act for its decision.

Kenneth McGhie, general counsel for the Board of Elections and Ethics, said the board will probably hold a hearing on Jackson's latest request in October.

"We still have to look at all the legal issues, and one of those is human rights," McGhie said.

Peter Rosenstein, president of the Campaign for All D.C. Families, said he is optimistic that the elections board will once again block a referendum.

"We believe the Board of Elections and Ethics ... will decide that you, legally in D.C., cannot have an initiative depriving a protected minority of their rights," Rosenstein said. "We believe that holding an initiative would be counterproductive and would unfortunately pit good people against each other."

King, who says he's the longest-serving ANC commissioner in the city, countered: "This is not a human rights issue."

"I would not be involved in anything that would violate one's human rights. We are all God's children," King said. "This is about the civil rights of 411,000 D.C. (voters)."

Although it is not formally part of the Stand4MarriageDC coalition, the Archdiocese of Washington also submitted a letter to the elections board today calling for a referendum. Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl even sent a letter to 300 Catholic priests asking them to get behind the effort.

"It is ironic that at the same time the city is asking for voting representation in the U.S. Congress, its leaders are denying residents the opportunity to participate in the Democratic process for an issue with widespread implications for children and families," Ronald Jackson, executive director of the D.C. Catholic Conference, said in a statement.

The involvement of the archbishop will probably add a new dynamic to what could turn into a nasty battle this fall. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) plans to introduce a bill this fall legalizing same-sex marriage. In preparation for that move, gay rights groups have begun holding meetings to plot strategy.

Most observers expect that the elections board will have a hard time reversing its previous stance that a referendum and initiative would be a violation of the Human Rights Act. But if the issue does land on the ballot, activists on both sides would mount grueling campaigns to influence the outcome.

When Jackson was asked by a reporter today why he's confident his side could prevail at the ballot box, a woman in the audience shouted out, "its common sense."

"God is on our side," she added.

-- Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  |  September 1, 2009; 12:21 PM ET
Categories:  Church and State , City Life , Tim Craig , Voting Rights  | Tags: Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, Archdiocese of Washington, Bishop Harry Jackson, ballot initiative, same-sex marriage, voting  
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I learned something today: cognitive dissonance. This applies to people's hatred of homosexuality and opposition to same-sex marriage. The fact that people have been told for so long that homosexuality is wrong creates a benchmark standard in people's minds, that homosexuality is, in fact, wrong.

Now that the specific canards spelling out WHY homosexuality has been considered wrong for so long are each being dismantled by logic and modern review, there is a "cognitive dissonance" in believers' minds, a conflict between what they've been taught--and therefore believe to be true--and the new realization that the God they pray to created homosexuality as part of humanity and nature's great diversities.

Logic plays no part in the many arguments against recognizing same-sex marriages in the modern world. Only baseless fear and age-old taboos originally designed to help a society ("us") out-populate the enemy ("them") (e.g., "to be fruitful and multiply" to defend against those who would enslave us, i.e., the Egyptians).

Fear and loathing of what is within us that is different from what we've been taught--indoctrinated into believing: that the natural diversity of human sexuality is somehow perverse and, oxymoronically, against God's will.

So now we are telling God what His will is. Actually, we're telling each other and ourselves what we THINK God's will is, even though the evidence shows otherwise. In other words, cognitive dissonance.

Posted by: AndreasLights | September 1, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

It's time DC.

Couples are coming to CT to wed from all around the country this summer, and in many cases they are bringing their families and friends along to celebrate with them. Congrats to all.

And kudos to New England, Iowa and the Episcopal Church for supporting marriage equality.

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

And marriage is first a civil matter as marriage licenses are issued by and recorded in town halls not church halls, or mosques, or temples in America.

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

Posted by: cornetmustich | September 1, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

It's also time we get more involved at the local levels. We need to actively oust people like this ANC. The ADW has not place in politics. I am sure those of the RC faith, find meaning in ADW, but in reality they are simply another non-profit organization. I would encourage all that live in Ward 5 and support marriage equality to attend your ANC meetings, go to the Ward 5 Dems and GOP meetings and let your tax paying/voting voices be heard loudly. We can not standby and let elected Bigots, a carpet bagging minister, and ADW try to shape DC policy to fit their own agendas.

We've got to stand up for our rights.

Posted by: robbycu | September 1, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

If Mr. and Mrs. Obama had brought Barack as a pre-schooler to visit Maryland, where "Bishop" Jackson actually lives, or Virginia or almost anywhere else south of the Mason-Dixon line, they could have been jailed. In many cases, they could have been jailed under laws that were passed by voters. And it's just as well that they didn't try to go to church. Rick Warren's mentor, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, was officially on record as supporting the use of thugs to keep churches segregated.

Had former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao been old enough to marry arch-bigot Mitch McConnell prior to 1967, their so-called "marriage" would have been non-existent, and they could have been fined.

And, all around the country, how many churches have been closed because of the need to pay for damages to victims of sexual assault by clergy condoned by the highest levels of the Catholic hierarchy?

Jesus had a lot to say about hypocrites and hypocrisy. None of it was very complimentary.

Posted by: edallan | September 1, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

WaPo's Craig Complains Pastor 'Refusing to Relent' to Put Definition of Marriage Before D.C. Voters

Posted by: StewartIII | September 1, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

One of the saddest yet most predictable things is the hatred exhibited by the vast majority of Black Christians towards gay parents and the children of gay families. Black Christians do this is the name of their lord. What’s ironic, is that the vast majority of conservative, white, evangelical Christians manifest the same type of hatred and use the same sort of vitriol against people who advocate for policies that would, in most cases, aid the vast majority of Black people in this country.

Bigotry, hatred and stupidity are wrong. If there is a Jesus, the people who have most to fear are Christians. I don’t believe that Jesus would be as mean and uninteresting as the mob running around fomenting hate in his name.

If it goes to the mob, it will pass. Black people hate gay people. In Jesus name of course, so that makes it OK.

I am so thankful to live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We are civilized here. Please stay in The District of Columbia, your swamp.

Posted by: mbenac | September 1, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

mbenac wrote: "I am so thankful to live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We are civilized here. Please stay in The District of Columbia, your swamp."

Hmmm, "civilized" is not the word the rest of our nation would choose to describe the residents of Massachusetts. "Enablers of moral ills and bad lifestyle choices" might be more accurate.

Posted by: GirthBrooks | September 1, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse

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