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Same-sex marriage opponents prepare to turn to D.C. courtsSame-sex marriage foes vow court fight in D.C.

 Michael Sindram (right) of Washington, DE testifies against the same sex marriage issue.  Others in the photo are: (l-r) Robert Brannum and Carlyn Steptoe, both of Washington, DC.
Michael Sindram (right) of Washington, DE testifies against the same sex marriage issue. Others in the photo are: (l-r) Robert Brannum and Carlyn Steptoe, both of Washington, DC. ( Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post )

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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Opponents of same-sex marriage are preparing to turn to the courts if the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics denies their request for a ballot initiative next year on whether marriage should be limited to one man and one woman.

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On a day in which hundreds of residents spoke out on the issue, same-sex marriage opponents said they are preparing a multi-prong legal strategy to tie up the issue in the courts for months.

In addition to fighting for a public vote on same-sex marriage in the District, the opponents say they will argue in court that the federal Defense of Marriage Act banning gay marriage applies to the city. Several national conservative organizations plan to support the effort, guaranteeing that local opponents have the money and publicity to wage a vigorous battle.

"This is the whole ballgame right here," said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, which has been at the center of the battle over same-sex marriage in California and other states. "We will go to the higher courts. . . . The other side better be careful what they wish for."

The prospect of a legal battle over whether the District should legalize same-sex marriage comes as the D.C. Council began considering a bill that says any two people may marry "regardless of gender."

More than 100 people showed up Monday night for a legislative hearing on the bill, which was co-sponsored by 10 of council's 13 members.

Several same-sex couples broke into tears as they talked about the prospect of being allowed to get married. Marisa Levy went to the hearing to support her gay brother.

"Pass this bill and finally make my brother's partner of 15 years my brother-in-law," Levy said.

Residents opposed to the bill, which the council will likely pass by Christmas, offered equally emotional testimony. At times, they began shouting at council members.

"I am just outraged at this hearing. I think it's a joke," Kathryn Pearson-West of Northeast said. "This is a mockery for democracy."

Earlier, the elections board heard nearly five hours of testimony on the request by Stand4MarriageDC to put an initiative on the ballot next year stating that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in the District of Columbia."

The elections board has to decide whether the initiative would violate the rights of the city's gay and lesbian residents. D.C. law prohibits a vote on a matter covered by the 1977 Human Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination against gays, lesbians and other minority groups.

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