Ministers Lead Protest of D.C. Same-Sex Marriage Legislation

Pastors and gay rights activists converged on Freedom Plaza during a rally opposing same-sex marriage. Video by Hamil Harris/The Washington Post
By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Freedom Plaza was transformed into an intersection of faith and protest yesterday as about 150 people rallied to denounce support for same-sex marriage in the District.

"We have to say no to same-sex marriage," said the Rev. George Gilbert, pastor of Holy Trinity United Baptist Church in Northeast Washington, who concluded his remarks by leading a chant: "Not on our watch! Not on our watch! Not on our watch!"

This month, the D.C. Council gave preliminary approval to legislation that would recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere in the country, and council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), who is gay, has said he will introduce a bill this year to allow same-sex marriages in the District. Any District legislation has to survive a congressional review.

The Stand Up for Marriage rally was held across the street from the John A. Wilson Building, the seat of city government, and was organized by Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., pastor of Hope Christian Church of Beltsville. Jackson has held similar rallies across the country.

"I would rather be religiously courageous than politically correct," Jackson said. "I am thankful that God has put it in your heart to be here. You represent a hundredfold and others that should and would and wanted to be here. I am appointing you to take the word far and wide and speak up for Jesus."

The ministers contend that the city's elected officials are pushing legislation that most District residents oppose.

"I don't agree with them," Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said in an interview at an unrelated event.

The mayor said he thinks residents are much more worried about what's happening in their own homes than about same-sex marriage. "They don't have enough time in the day to discriminate or worry about someone else," he said.

He reiterated his support of gay marriage. "Everybody is entitled to the same rights," he said.

Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), a co-sponsor of the council bill to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, told the rally that he now opposes the bill. He later described his position as "evolving."

A number of gay rights activists attended the rally, standing to the side.

Jeffrey Richards, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, took exception to the singing of "We Shall Overcome," an anthem of the civil rights movement, at the conclusion of the rally. He said the gay community is facing discrimination like that opposed by the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s.

"It is about civil rights. It is about human rights. It is about what is fair," Richards said.

Staff writers Tim Craig and Nikita Stewart contributed to this report.

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