Nickles Says No

D.C. Attorney General advises board to reject marriage referendum

D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles issued an opinion today, June 11, advising the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to reject a proposed referendum that would subject the District’s move to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions to a citywide vote.

While the District offers domestic partnerships to same-sex couples, it does not allow them to marry.

In his five-page letter to DCBOEE General Counsel Kenneth J. McGhie, Nickles advised that the proposed referendum, filed by Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., is not a proper subject for a referendum.

”As expressed in the Human Rights Act, the established public policy of the District of Columbia is to treat individuals as equals, whatever their gender, sexual orientation, or marital status may be,” Nickles concluded, explaining that while the new marriage-recognition legislation takes a step toward realizing that portion of the Human Rights Act, the proposed referendum would negate that step.

“[T]he proposed measure is not a proper subject for a referendum under District law, and the proposer’s petition should be denied,” Nickles wrote in his non-binding opinion.

The City Council voted 12-1 in favor of the legislation May 5, with Councilmember Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) casting the sole dissenting vote. Mayor Adrian Fenty signed it May 6. The legislation is expected to become law in the next month, as it is expected to pass its congressional overview period without interference.

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