November 20, 2009 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. board rejects marriage initiative

For the second time this year, the D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics has issued a ruling denying a measure that seeks to ban same-sex marriage in the District.

In a 13-page ruling released Tuesday, the election board said a proposed voter initiative filed by a Maryland minister that seeks to ban gay marriage would violate the city’s Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“The District’s Initiative, Referendum & Recall Procedures Act requires the board to refuse to accept referenda and initiatives which violate the Human Rights Act,” says the ruling. “Because the initiative would authorize discrimination prohibited by the HRA, it is not a proper subject for initiative, and may not be accepted by the board.”

The board issued a similar ruling in June when Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of a Beltsville, Md., church, filed papers for a voter referendum to overturn a separate law passed by the City Council and signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty that recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

Jackson and several supporters appealed the board’s ruling in June to D.C. Superior Court, which upheld the board’s decision. Jackson has said he would file a similar appeal if the board ruled against his more recent proposal for a voter initiative.

He said he filed the initiative proposal in anticipation that the City Council would pass separate legislation this fall that would allow same-sex marriage to be performed in the city. Gay Council member David Catania (I-At Large) introduced the legislation, the Religious Freedom & Civil Marriage Equality Act of 2009, in October.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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