The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics is holding a hearing today on whether the City Council bill to recognize same-sex marriages performed in others states can be put to a referendum.
The hearing room is packed with both supporters and opponents of the proposed referendum. At the hearing, which could stretch into the late afternoon, the two members of the elections board will have to decide whether the referendum can be held without violating District election law.
Under D.C. law, referendums cannot be used to appropriate funds, overturn a budget act or violate the Human Rights Act. Gay rights advocates, backed by attorneys from the city, plan to argue a referendum would violate the Human Rights Act. The act prohibits discrimination against gays and lesbians.
But Brian Raum, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, is arguing "the people should decide," and the that Human Rights Act does not extend to same-sex marriage.
"The issue before us is not whether same-sex marriage is good or bad policy, but whether who gets to decide this critical moral and social issue?" Raum said. "The proponents believe the people should decide."
In early rounds of questioning, the board and its general counsel appear skeptical of Raum's argument, citing the Human Rights Act.
Update 2:56 p.m. The hearing has concluded. The Elections Board decided it will not make a decision today. The board is keeping the record open until 5 p.m. tomorrow to give supporters and opponents more time to sumbit written testimony.
A decision will likely come Friday, or early next week, but the board appeared sympathetic to the gay community's argument that a referendum would be a violation of elections law because of the Human Rights Act.