With Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) scheduled to introduce his same-sex marriage bill at Tuesday's council meeting, a group of ministers traveled to city hall today to step up their campaign to force a public vote on the legislation.
The ministers were spotted in the John A. Wilson Building meeting with Council members Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and Michael Brown (I-At Large), both of whom support Catania's bill.
"We just agreed we would work toward a civil discussion around these issues and we have asked that the voice of the people be heard on this issue," Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., said after his meeting with Mendelson. "If the voice of the people is not heard, I think a lot of people will be very, very angry."
Jackson has become a well-known public critic of efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in the District. But several newcomers to the fight, including Dr. Hernando Caicedo of the Fraternity of Hispanic Pastors, accompanied Jackson at today's meetings.
"We are here to say 'allow us to vote on it,' " said Marshal Phillips, a community liaison for the Greater Calvary Holy Church in Northeast. "We will continue to fight because this fight has been going on since the beginning of mankind."
On Wednesday night Catania told about 150 gay rights activists he would introduce a bill Tuesday changing the city code to state "marriage is the legally recognized union of two people" and "any person ... may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender."
At the event, the Rev. Eric P. Lee, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, gave the activists tips on organizing.
Lee, who is heterosexual and a leading black advocate for same-sex marriage, told the activists they need to win over the religious community. But Lee urged them to focus on moderates -- not pastors like Jackson who are vocal critics of same-sex marriage.
"It's better if you just don't engage them," Lee said. "It's better to engage people who are reasonable about justice."
The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics will hold a hearing later this month on whether a proposal by same-sex marriage opponents limiting marriage to be between a man and a woman qualifies for the ballot.
In June, the board blocked an effort by Jackson to hold a referendum on whether the District should recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
-- Tim Craig