A panel of lawyers appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser to prepare a draft D.C. statehood constitution revised the draft last week to ensure that a voter referendum could not be used to repeal nondiscrimination protections, including LGBT rights protections.
An earlier draft of the constitution defined the voter referendum process in a way that would have removed a provision in existing D.C. law that doesn’t allow the placement of a referendum on the ballot if it “authorizes, or would have the effect of authorizing, discrimination” prohibited by the D.C. Human Rights Act.
The Human Rights Act, among other things, bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
Nick Nartowicz, an attorney and member of the Legal Advisory Committee of the New Columbia Statehood Commission, which drafted the constitution, said the committee revised the referendum language along with other provisions in the draft in response to input from the public and other interested parties.
He said a final draft of the constitution was expected to be presented to the D.C. Council for a vote later this month. Under plans approved by the Statehood Commission, the constitution and a proposal for D.C. to petition Congress for statehood in January 2017 will be put before the city’s voters in a ballot measure in November.
Most political observers don’t expect Congress to approve statehood for D.C. anytime soon. But Bowser, members of the D.C. Council, and longtime statehood advocates have expressed hope that the statehood petition would receive greater support if Democrats win control of Congress and retain the White House in the November election.