Pastor Seeks Another Referendum in Gay Marriage Fight

Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church.
Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church. (Bill O'leary - Twp)
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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bishop Harry Jackson is refusing to relent in his campaign to stop same-sex marriage in the District, despite the drubbing he took before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics this summer.

Jackson sent out a statement Monday stating that he and other opponents of same-sex marriage would file an initiative request with the elections board Tuesday.

If approved by the board, the initiative would give District residents an opportunity to vote sometime next year on whether to legalize same-sex marriage in the District. Jackson, who says he believes that most city voters oppose same-sex marriage, is hoping his proposal will slow efforts by the D.C. Council to legalize those marriages.

Sometime this fall, council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) is expected to file a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the District. Because of legislation passed in May, gay couples married in other states already may have their marriages recognized in the District.

"The D.C. City Council has stated that their intention is to redefine marriage by going beyond recognizing homosexual marriage to allow them to be performed in the District of Columbia," Jackson's statement said. "This redefinition of marriage will permanently impact D.C. businesses, education, and the family unit without the voice of the residents being heard."

Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, has become the leading critic of efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in the District. He has aligned with a group called Stand4MarriageDC, but they are fighting what many consider to be a losing battle.

In May, Jackson filed a request with the elections board to hold a referendum to block the council bill allowing same-sex marriages performed in others states to be legally recognized.

The elections board, in a strongly worded ruling, blocked Jackson's referendum request. The two-member board cited D.C. elections law, which prohibits a vote on a matter covered by the Human Rights Act. The 1977 act outlaws discrimination against gays and lesbians and other minority groups.

Many observers say Jackson, who registered to vote in the District in April, will have difficulty convincing the board that its previous ruling should not also apply to the latest proposed initiative.

"It is our belief that once again Bishop Jackson will find that the laws of D.C. protect minorities from discrimination of the sort that he and his followers would like to inflict," said Peter Rosenstein, president of the Campaign for All D.C. Families, which supports same-sex marriage. "I hope that when this initiative is ruled out of order that the bishop will then return to Maryland and leave the people of the District alone so that they may continue to celebrate the diversity that has made our city great."

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