City Desk

Hundreds Watch Gay Marriage Referendum Hearing

The question before the Board of Elections and Ethics today is whether the law passed last month by the D.C. Council recognizing same-sex marriages performed out of state is the proper subject of a referendum. To wit, the main question is whether the bill is covered under the city's longstanding human-rights law, under which sexual orientation is a protected class.

But the debate here, in a packed second-floor hearing room at One Judiciary Square, has not stuck to those parameters.

After gaveling the hearing to order this morning, the board heard approximately 90 minutes of testimony from proponents of the referendum. They heard first from Brian Raum, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, a "legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation."

Raum, for the most part, stuck to the question at hand, citing two cases supporting his contention that District human rights law does not apply to the marriage-recognition law. One was a New York state decision; the other was the landmark Dean v. D.C. case, which the D.C. Court of Appeals handed down in 1995. That decision, long lamented by gay marriage proponents, ruled that D.C.'s gender-neutral marriage statute in itself did not allow the city to issue gay marriage licenses. That decision Raum sees as proof that marriage is not covered.

"The referendum would not authorize discrimination," he said. He asked the board to allow the electorate "to decide this critical issue of social policy and not allow the few to decide the issue for the many."

Raum was followed by Bishop Harry Jackson, the minister who is leading the push against gay marriage in D.C. He began by decrying the disclosure of the fact that he recently moved to the District of Columbia. "My involvement in this process has to do with my love for D.C. and its people," he said, before describing how he believed how "due process has been circumvented" by the council vote.

Most of his testimony, however, had to do with the propriety of the legislation itself. "I'm not against anybody's individual rights," he says. "But I am against changing societal structure....We're pulling out one of the foundations of the structure." He was joined by a fellow minister, Dale Wafer, of The Harvest church.

Giving some of the most impassioned testimony was Patrick Walker, senior pastor with New Macedonia Baptist in Ward 7. Again, he stuck to the broader issue of gay marriage itself: "Or culture is evolving, and there is a shifting sand rejecting [God's] truth in our city." He also called the push for a referendum "another defining moment in the District of Columbia's history of self-determination and home rule."

Also on the list of witnesses was Walter E. Fauntroy, the civil rights leader and former delegate to Congress who is opposing the gay marriage legislation. But he was a no-show.

Then the freak show began. One gentleman, Leroy Swailes, introduced himself as an Oxon Hill resident, though he said, "I still consider that as being D.C." That earned him some chuckles.

Less funny was when he held up a selection of gay-themed children's books and said, "This is a pedophile book!" and that "homosexuality means the extermination of the human race" and that ne believes in human rights "but you have to be human—that means you have to deal with the opposite sex."

In opposition to the referendum, At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson offered testimony defending the council's procedure on the matter. In what's likely a first for Mendelson, he seconded Dick Cheney on the matter of gay marriage generally, citing his National Press Club comments last week in support of state-by-state gay marriage legalization.

Brian Flowers, the D.C. Council's chief attorney, refuted Raum's interpretation of the Dean case, explaining that much of the basis of the court's decision has changed since 1995.

Also adding testimony were Phil Pannell, the Ward 8 activist, who nodded toward the civil rights movement; Rick Rosendall of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; and Jeff Richardson of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.

UPDATE, 3:40 P.M.: Sorry for missing details: LL had to cut his piece short to go to the Holocaust Museum.

The board concluded the hearing after about an hour of testimony from the opponents of the referendum; Raum and Jackson were given opportunities to rebut prior testimony; Raum spent most of his time laying out his case why Dean means the Human Rights Act isn't applicable to marriage.

Throughout the hearing, most of the questioning was done by board member Charles Lowery and board attorney Kenneth McGhie. Board chair Erroll Arthur also chipped in a few queries. If the questioning was any guide, all three men express some skepticism of the proponents' case that marriage isn;t covered by the human rights laws.

With only two of three members currently seated (a third nominee, Omar Nour, is amid council conformation), the referendum supporters need both Arthur and Lowery to take their side. A 1-1 split, McGhie says, means no referendum.

Time is running out on the referendum supporters: They now have less than a month to collect tens of thousands of legitimate signatures. They can;t do that until the board rules. Arthur declined to say when a decision would be forthcoming, but expect it to be a matter of days, not weeks.

If the board accepts the referendum, a meeting would be convened within days to hammer out the ballot language. If it rejects the referendum, the proponents would have 10 days to petition Superior Court for redress.

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  • Q

    LL, is this simply an overview or a full fledged article? More details are needed. Was each side of the referendum given 90 minutes? When will a verdict be given? From the cellphone-quality photo, it suggests that the hearing was recorded. Do you know if/when it will be available?

    Help a brother out here. I hope renewing my free subscription is not going to waste, LOL!

  • abuzznDC

    Oh what time we have on our hands: consider-primary education, graduating percentages of our children, crime, our environment, unemployment, health care, immigration, infrastructure, our soldiers here and overseas, and we're getting bogged down in an issue that should be next to divorce rates.

  • shadow_man

    For those of you claiming homosexuality is a "lifestyle", that is a false and ignorant statement. Homosexuality is not a choice. Just like you don't choose the color of your skin, you cannot choose whom you are sexually attracted to. If you can, sorry, but you are not heterosexual, you are bi-sexual. Virtually all major psychological and medical experts agree that sexual orientation is NOT a choice. Most gay people will tell you its not a choice. Common sense will tell you its not a choice. While science is relatively new to studying homosexuality, studies tend to indicate that its biological.

    http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/03/differential-brain-activation.pdf
    http://www.newscientist.com/channel/sex/dn14146-gay-brains-structured-like-those-of-the-opposite-sex.html
    Gay, Straight Men's Brain Responses Differ
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,155990,00.html
    http://www.livescience.com/health/060224_gay_genes.html
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/w27453600k586276/
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2008/06/16/172/

    There is overwhelming scientific evidence that homosexuality is not a choice. Sexual orientation is generally a biological trait that is determined pre-natally, although there is no one certain thing that explains all of the cases. "Nurture" may have some effect, but for the most part it is biological.

  • SlateCrate

    Shadow man I do not believe you.

  • AndreasLights

    It's entirely NOT surprising that SlateCrate won't accept that sexual orientation (and identity, by the way) are not the conscious choice of the individual.

    EVERY ARGUMENT against treating homosexuals fairly and equally under all laws, including marriage laws, EVERY ARGUMENT uses the foundational argument that being gay is a choice.

    Without the false foundation of choice, every argument is stripped away, with only modernly-unfounded, currently-irrational, presently-outdated and quite unnecessary FEAR of homosexuality remains.

    SlateCrate wrote, "Shadow man I do not believe you."

    Of course not. Without your false evidence, your case is dismissed.

  • AndreasLights

    P.S. Did SlateCrate CHOOSE to be heterosexual? Assuming he/she/it (they) are.

    If they did make a conscious choice, then I'll be my bottom dollar that they are either bisexual or, more likely, a closet-case who chose to ignore their true sexuality. Since they chose to act straight and live a lie, they think the rest of us should be as miserable. Most people who protest too much are probably have deeply-rooted, latent homosexual inclinations and live their lives in the closet. Larry Craig, for example, a leader in the fight against equality for gays (all inclusive LGBTQI etc.)

    Come out, come out, whoever you are!

  • AndreasLights

    Okay, one more.

    I propose a study. There is a device called a rigidometer. It scientifically measures how stimulated a man becomes after being exposed to certain stimuli. Let's hook up three groups and let them watch gay sex on video and see what comes up.

    Three groups to be studied: 1. Self-identifying gay males. 2. Self-identifying straight males (who have no objection to allowing same-sex marriage for others). 3. Self-identifying straight males who object to allowing same-sex marriage for others. (It may be difficult to find subjects willing to participate in the third group, for obvious reasons!)

    Let's see how heterosexual these anti-gay folks REALLY are. Maybe the Soros Foundation would pay for the study. Let's get SlateCrate to participate.

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  • Frank

    Religion is a conscious choice, but no matter how evil it is, it's still protected under the law.

    After hearing the Nazi speech from "Minister" Swailes, I certainly don't think religion should be protected by any law.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlKyLFCgBPQ H.Jackson

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlKyLFCgBPQ

    This is what the real DC blacks think about the situation.

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