Armageddon And A Wedding, Too
Proponents of the District's move to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages in four states that now sanction it were thrilled last week when a planned anti-gay marriage demonstration in front of the D.C. Council's offices didn't come off.
But organizers of that rally say that was just a scheduling glitch and the real thing is happening Tuesday at 10 a.m. on Freedom Plaza. The rally, according to lead organizer Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Bowie, "will launch the Armageddon of the marriage battle in this country."
Jackson predicts that about 1,000 church members and 100 pastors will show up to argue that the apparently unanimous support among D.C. Council members for recognizing same-sex marriage is an affront to Washingtonians and especially to blacks.
"There's a sense that the latte-drinking crowd is doing an end run around the regular people," Jackson told me. "It's a race and a class struggle on this. If 51 percent of the people in D.C. are African-American and you have a unanimous vote by the city council on this, somebody's not listening to the people."
Jackson says that although his church is located in Maryland, he lives in the District and expects that a large portion of those at the rally will be D.C. residents. But he says he's not the least bit reluctant to recruit out-of-town supporters to put pressure on the city's politicians. He tells me that the Alexandria-based political consulting firm of Shirley and Bannister, a longtime player in conservative Republican national and local campaigns, is handling the planning and execution of the effort to defeat D.C. gay marriage initiatives, both at the council level and--should the city pass this and a measure legalizing same-sex bonds here in the District--in Congress. Jackson won't say who's paying the consulting firm or who's bankrolling his own effort to build a coalition of pastors against the D.C. bill.
Jackson is a fiery preacher with strong ties to white evangelical organizations. A frequent speaker on behalf of conservative social causes, Jackson says the D.C. Council members who believe that both whites and blacks see gay marriage as a civil rights issue are wrong: The real division, the minister believes, is between those who take their faith seriously and those who are deeply misguided.
"The divide has to do with the intensity of one's faith commitment," he says. "Those who are less informed scripturally are floating down the same direction as many in the culture."
Jackson says it's the media's fault that the anti-gay marriage message is seen in some quarters as antithetical to civil rights. "The black ministers are irate that they are being shut out," he says. "They feel like nobody's listening to them." Washingtonpost.com ran a commentary by Jackson on the marriage issue last week.
Will a crowd show up to rally against gay marriage in downtown Washington? And if it does, how much of the crowd will be actual D.C. voters? Or does that even matter, as any move by the District on this issue is indeed, as Jackson warns, certain to morph into a national debate?
Council member David Catania, the driving force on the council behind the marriage initiatives, argues that it's high time the city move ahead to do what its citizens want, even if that means eventually being stomped on by the lords on the Hill. But even some gay marriage advocates have long warned against an aggressive approach in the city for fear that a congressional backlash against the District could hurt same-sex marriage's chances in other states and localities around the country.
That argument seems all too cautious. If the District's ultimate goal is to have the same kind of political independence that other cities and states take for granted, it behooves the city to act as if it enjoyed those same rights--and then let the rest of the nation watch as our rights are trampled upon. What better way to raise awareness of the plight of half a million disenfranchised Americans.
By Marc Fisher |
April 27, 2009; 8:24 AM ET
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