City Desk

D.C. Gay Marriage Referendum Rejected by Elections Board

The Board of Elections and Ethics has ruled that a referendum on recognizing gay marriages is not allowed.

Reads the order [PDF], signed by both board chair Errol Arthur and member Charles Lowery Jr.:

[I]t is clear that the Referendum’s Proposers would, in contravention of the [Human Rights Act], strip same-sex couples of the rights and responsibilities of marriage that they were afforded by virtue of entering into valid marriages elsewhere....Because the Referendum would authorize discrimination prohibited by the [Human Rights Act], it is not a proper subject for referendum, and may not be accepted by the Board.

More to come.

UPDATE, 4:50 P.M.: The order highlights this section of the Human Rights Act: "it shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for a District government agency or office to limit or refuse to provide any facility, service, program, or benefit to any individual on the basis of an individual's actual or perceived...sexual orientation."

In a twist of the knife, the order notes that when the referendum and initiative laws were introduced to the council in 1978, it was Councilmember Marion Barry who added the amendment barring laws concerning human-rights matters. Barry, of course, was the only vote against the gay marriage recognition law last month.

UPDATE, 5:05 P.M.: The order makes much of the fact that "contrary to times past, there can be, and is, such a thing as a valid same-sex marriage." From there, the order argues that a "broad policy of recognition" demands that the District recognize those marriages.

But if that's the case, why would the council even have to legislate?

The board recognizes the importance of the recognition law in that "it unequivocally declares that the District is a jurisdiction that affords full faith and credit to valid same-sex marriages" and that it is in keeping with a series of council actions to eradicate legal distinctions between heterosexual and homosexual couples. Finally, the new law "effectively adds discrimination against same-sex couples who have entered into valid marriages in other jurisdictions to the list of acts of discrimination prohibited under the [Human Rights Act]."

This is what the order has to say about the landmark Dean v. District case, decided by the D.C. Court of Appeals in 1995 and likely to figure heavily in any future court challenge: '[T]here is now, unlike in 1995 when Dean was decided, such a thing as a valid same-sex marriage....Simply stated, the [recent marriage recognition law] means that the HRA now requires the District government and all public accommodations, inter alia, to refrain from discriminating against same-sex couples who are validly married elsewhere unless the marriage is otherwise prohibited in the District.' Thus, the board rules, Dean is "not controlling.'

UPDATE, 5:15 P.M.: Next steps for the referendum proponents? They have 10 days to petition a Superior Court judge for a writ of mandamus blocking the board's decision, which is given expedited review. In an interview last Wednesday, referendum leader Bishop Harry Jackson vowed to appeal an adverse decision in court.

Pastor Patrick J. Walker of the New Macedonia Baptist Church, one of the proponents, says he is "deeply saddened and disappointed" by the board decision. "Simply put, I feel as a citizen of the District of Columbia, once again we've been disenfranchised. Our right to vote has been taken away, no different than what's happened on Capitol Hill....Now we're doing it ourselves."

Walker took particular issue with the board's reading of Dean: "We just don't believe that in 1995, if it wasn't a human rights violation then, just 15 years ago, how can it be a human rights violation now? The only thing different is a few persons' perception."

UPDATE, 5:35 P.M.: Phil Mendelson, who introduced the marriage-recognition legislation, responds in a statement:

I completely agree with today’s decision of the Board of Elections and Ethics. As I and many others stated when we testified in front of the Board last week, civil rights should not be subject to a referendum. I applaud this decision, as it was based firmly in the tradition of the District’s own progressive Human Rights Act. Recognizing marriages lawfully entered into in other jurisdictions is logical and just. It is unacceptable for government to sanction discrimination on the basis of one’s sexual orientation.

UPDATE, 6:05 P.M.: Board chair Arthur says in a statement, "We understand the sensitivity of this matter and appreciate the large number of citizens and civic organizations who gave input during this process. After giving this matter very careful consideration, the Board feels that our statutory obligation to reject this referendum is clear."

UPDATE, 6:10 P.M.: David Catania, too:

At the time of its passage, the District’s Human Rights Act was one of the most comprehensive statements on equality in the world. For over 30 years, we have endeavored to perfect and expand our understanding of equality....In my opinion, there is no question that the proposed referendum would have the effect of continuing discrimination. As such, I am pleased with the Board’s decision that the proposed referendum is incompatible with District law.

UPDATE, 9:45 P.M.: Here's a statement of the D.C. Catholic Conference, the activist arm of the Archdiocese of Washington:

Today’s announcement by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics to deny a referendum on this issue has once again disenfranchised the residents of our city. The DC Catholic Conference is deeply disappointed by the decision to deny voters a voice....

As part of an organization that serves thousands of children and families throughout this city, it would be our hope that residents be given an opportunity to be heard on an issue with widespread implications for children and families. The DC Catholic Conference will continue to strongly advocate for the long-standing and proper definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

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  • Q

    "strip same-sex couples of the rights and responsibilities of marriage that they were afforded by virtue of entering into valid marriages elsewhere" So we are supporting Iowa, Massachusetts, and possibly Hawaii?

    Yeah LL, a twist to Barry. But back in 1978, the GLBT were called sissys, butches, and other offensive words. They weren't trying to get married, just trying to keep from being discriminated against. ...And you fault Barry because...

  • JohnD

    "Pastor Patrick J. Walker of the New Macedonia Baptist Church, one of the proponents, says he is “deeply saddened and disappointed” by the board decision. “Simply put, I feel as a citizen of the District of Columbia, once again we’ve been disenfranchised....""

    Well Pastor Walker - welcome to my world as a gay citizen of the District of Columbia who is disenfranchised every day that my long term relationship isn't recognized as a marriage. If you don't like gay marriage - then don't marry someone of the same gender.

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  • GpressNPS

    The bible is all inclusive anyways... Crist healed the lover of a roman centurion. Those the king james bible states his servant. the greek translation is male romantic, My beloved. his beloved was raised to serve him and he truly loved him. during this time the centurions weren't allowed to marry. So these boys were raised to take care of their every need. thought you might enjoy the love of God today. Your brother Kevin. You can see this in I belive the book of Matthew where christ states never have I seen such faith..... but because of the hands of man and his error to properly interpret. or interpret as they see it fit to do so. this is what we are left with. Gods ignorant followers trying to be his words and run our country through hatred anyways... pasture walker. you are no scholar. and a bigot.

  • Truth Hurts

    It'll be less than 48 hours until arrogant congressional dimwits from distant States initiate efforts to trump DC's home rule. I can hear them already.

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  • Tom

    Hmmm, I do not agree with taking away rights of individuals once they have recieved them. However, those rights were not granted in Washington, DC unlike California where I fully support those who were married before prop 8. Also there are legal boundaries in regards to laws and how they apply from state to state unlike federal laws.

  • Big-K

    Oh well, looks like the back door lovers and wanna be men can rejoice in a shallow victory, does't mean acceptance just another rung in an attempt to change nature.

  • Q

    GpressNPS, what is your point? That the Holy Bible text makes reference to homosexuals...duh, even a neophyte Bible Study student knows that. Christ (based on my reading and interpretation) made no DISTINCTION in SIN either (except blasphemy against the Holy Ghost -- another discussion entirely). His REPEATED prescription for those whom He FORGAVE (or in this case healed) was to REPENT. Affection for one's servant, brother, etc. is tolerated under the Bible, but sexual immorality (hetero or homo) isn't. Love isn't described biblically based on any gender. However, marriage IS. Having Christians accept and LOVE one another is one thing. Having Christians (and those of the way) accept same-sex marriage is another. Don't get it twisted.

    Finally, if you've read this far I encourage you to read Mark 12:19-33, and Matthew 22:23-40. Both deal with "marriage" in the hearafter and LOVING your neighbor. Something both heterosexuals and homosexuals cand learn from.

  • Reid

    "They weren’t trying to get married, just trying to keep from being discriminated against."

    The fact you don't see an inherent contradiction here is why you will not understand why it is right to have marriage equality. You will go on hating in your bigoted way and someday people will look back these blog posts and their comments and shake their heads at how unbelievably stupid and hateful your position is.

    Go back and watch footage of Birmingham in the 1950s and 60s. As a historical matter, you will be remembered just as the nameless white faces who screamed bloody murder when a black student joined their childrens' schools. Cite to some ancient fantasy novel all you want, you're going to lose and you might as well step away from your bigoted position now and start at least pretending that you never really felt that way all along.

  • abuzznDC

    This is truly a shame and a travesty that such an issue has monopolized so much time and effort of our elected officials that could have been focused elsewhere and on issues that truly are in the interest and of the benefit of everyone.

    Emblematic as the film "Lifeboat" where our desires of wanting to be inclusive and helpful are not enough and that political stances are wrongly overshadows other social issues which stalemates and threatens any progress in more pressing matters.

  • Q this is an equal opportunity blog and I get to cite an "ancient fantasy novel", let me tell you this. For the past month I've read articles and participated in blogs on this site that have been strewn with pig-headed GAY RIGHTS activists willing to jump down my throat about my opinion or what I have written. Obviously you feel passionately about this subject. Otherwise you wouldn't assault and attack me because I don't share your viewpoint. Rather than respond unkind, let me say this --

    For the record, as I've said in other blogs, I am not anti-gay, anti-lesbian, anti-bisexual, or anti-transgender. I'm NOT anti-domestic partner in terms of hospital visitation, mortgages/loans, life insurance, probate, wills, and other legal documents. The only thing I'm "anti" is calling what GLBT who want to be in union, physically, legally, sexually with each other a "marriage". In my "ancient fantasy novel" it clearly defines marriage, gender, etc. in the opening chapters. In the latter part of this "ancient fantasy novel", there's this guy who comes to tell folks that stoning and killing folks just because they mess up or don't subscribe to the JEWISH LAW is wrong. He teaches mercy, forgiveness, and other things. In other words, no one is perfect, but we will all have a better chance at improving our lives if we follow his example of love and mercy.

    Anyways, even with that, I am entitled to have whatever opinion I have regarding this issue. But in all honesty, my opinion should be of no consequence to you because I was specifically addressing someone else's post.

    I am NOT naive when it comes to Civil and the buzz word "Human Rights" either. However, please stop making the basic mistaken argument that the Women's issues/ERA (breaking the glass ceiling), racism (and overturning segregation), and religious discrimination (you know folks who read "ancient fantasy" novels) tenents of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were inclusive of same-sex marriage. I never heard Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, SNCC, NOW, Gloria Steinem, ADL, etc. make that part of their platform(s).

    I've seen the footage of Selma and been in Montgomery County THIS year and experienced some good ol' fashioned discrimination/racism from a cop no less. I am not screaming bloody murder because of legislation, but understand that no law or statute can make anyone accept another person. It may enforce discrimination, but it doesn't have the power to change a person's mind or force them to think a certain way. That, much like what I learned from the "ancient fantasy novel" is free choice.

    If someone looks at this blog from years to come, what they will read from my posts is not that of a bigot. They will read someone who is TOLERANT of other folks, but has can have an open mind and differing opinion too.

    In terms of "you’re going to lose and you might as well step away from your bigoted position now and start at least pretending that you never really felt that way all along." please understand that I'm not in this to win or lose anything.

  • Reid

    You are espousing a separate-but-equal argument where the only thing that puts one person in one box and another person in another box is their respective sexual orientation. That is a bigoted position. Whether it's supported by a book where people live for hundreds of years, survive being swallowed by whales, or walk on water (i.e. fantasy) is immaterial to the conclusion that it's a bigoted position just as if someone were to insist that Heart of Darkness taught them that blacks can be educated all they want, just as long as it's not with the whites. You have a right to maintain that position, just don't be so surprised when people criticize you harshly for your theocratic-induced bigotry.

  • Q

    Theocratic-induced bigotry, well put. Not my rationale, but well put nonetheless. It is not the boxes that are for debate. By mere existence we are all human, attention now...we are Male-Humans, Female-Humans by virtue of the 23rd chromosome pair. Oh, but there is more. By virtue of our parentage and ancestry, we are multiple ethnicities too. By our power of choice we can align ourselves with various deities or no deity at all. All of those Reid, represent "boxes". Some predetermined and some chosen.

    As a law, nothing prohibits African-Americans (or those with high levels of melonin) from going to a tanning salon. Nothing prohibits a woman from signing up for a prostate exam. However, why would either. Is it because the mere definition of tanning suggests a lack of pigmentation? Is it because the male human has a prostate? Maybe. However, the bigotry that you are accusing me of is based upon a choice of GLBT to engage in what several "ancient fantasy novels" suggest is truly heterosexual.

    I'm not saying anymore about this. Call me what you must, but I'm no bigot, and I'm not putting anyone in a box they haven't either been born in or chosen for themselves.

  • Scia Ciantee

    I would like to know what will happen when people start to realize that the judicial system does not make law, such as in the case of the Goodridge OPINION in Massachusetts. Will D.C. and other parts of the country that want to follow suit then be allowed to vote on if gay "marriage" should be recognized in their respective states?

    In my opinion, based on the fact that a majority of Americans STILL oppose gay "marriage" and are sick and tired of "court appointed law", such as abortion, the next wave is a revolution of reality and common sense.

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  • SlallFomoNath
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