Anti-Gay Effort Rejected

Anti-gay group appeals District's refusal of initiative to block gay marriage

by Sean Bugg
(Originally published 11/17/2009)
Published on November 18, 2009, 12:00am | Comments

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) on Tuesday rejected a proposed voter initiative that sought to define marriage as ''only between a man and a woman,'' declaring that the initiative would violate the city's anti-discrimination law.

The ''Marriage Initiative of 2009'' was launched by a number of area pastors, including Maryland-based Rev. Harry Jackson, in response to the D.C. City Council's impending passage of legislation that would guarantee marriage equality for same-sex couples.

''We have considered all of the testimony presented to the Board and understand the desire to place this question on the ballot,'' said Board Chairman Errol R. Arthur. ''However, the laws of the District of Columbia preclude us from allowing this initiative to move forward.''

Local activist Bob Summersgill said that action was expected.

''They really had very little leeway,'' he says of BOEE's decision. ''[Nearly] everyone who testified on either side agreed that [the initiative] was to increase discrimination against gay people.''

Summersgill said the decision would likely be ''very quickly appealed by Rev. Jackson and his friends,'' but unlikely to see much success given the clarity of the District's anti-discrimination law and the stated aim of the initiative.

Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large), who introduced the marriage legislation to the Council, hailed the BOEE decision.

''The proposed initiative would have stripped legally married same-sex couples of their vows. Those who proposed the initiative were attempting to write discrimination into our law, and I am pleased that the Board rejected this effort as an impermissible trespass on the human rights of District residents.''


As widely expected, the Marriage Initiative of 2009 filed an appeal of the BOEE decision in the D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday, Nov. 18. The filing clams that the BOEE ''lacks the authority to reject the Initiative under the Initiative, Referendum, and Recall Charter Amendments Act of 1978'' and requests a ''declaration that the Initiative does not violate the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977.''