Round-Three Rejection

BOEE again blocks effort to put marriage to citywide vote

If the maxim about insanity being defined as repeating the same course of action yet expecting different results has any bearing in truth, the crowd fighting marriage equality in the District may have a screw loose. Yesterday, Feb. 4, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) for the third time since June rejected an effort to have residents vote on the definition of marriage.

And the reasoning remains the same: The D.C. Human Rights Act forbids putting the rights of minorities up to a popular vote.

The BOEE’s most recent decision concerns a referendum push against the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, introduced by Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large) in October, to bring marriage equality to D.C. The bill passed its second reading Dec. 15, 2009, with an 11-2 vote, and Mayor Adrian Fenty signed it just three days later. The legislation’s congressional review period is expected to end soon with the law taking effect in early March.

“The Civil Marriage Equality Act represents the Council’s effort to eliminate the discriminatory exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of marriage on the basis of sex and sexual orientation,” BOEE Chairman Errol Arthur and member Charles Lowery wrote in their refection of the referendum.

Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., has been leading this effort to block marriage equality in the District. Among those joining him have been ANC 5A Commissioner Robert “Bob” King and Revs. Anthony Evans and Walter Fauntroy. The anti-marriage effort runs under the banner Stand4Marriage D.C. Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, serves as treasurer.

“It was absolutely expected,” says Mark Levine, counsel for the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and host of issues-oriented TV and radio programs, of the board’s decision. He adds that he expects the same outcome on yet another similar effort – a second initiative – still before the board.

Levine reckons, however, that as marriage equality speeds closer to implementation, there will be a flurry of ”last-ditch efforts” from the opposition.

”Things will get pretty fast and furious,” he says. Still, examining the judicial options left to the opposition even after gay people likely begin marrying in the District in March, Levine thinks the battle will be completed within the year, with marriage equality victorious. ”I think the noise will be done by the end of 2010.”

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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