Bishop Harry Jackson fights gay-marriage in District and across nation

By Wil Haygood
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This is how Bishop Harry Jackson spent his summer vacation: He hustled back and forth across the District rallying his faithful flock who oppose gay marriage. He leaned into microphones over at the Board of Elections and Ethics, quoting biblical verse, decrying those who would trumpet marriage between man and man, woman and woman.

He continued his protests when the leaves began to fall and the early darkness crawled across the sky. He heard amen this and amen that from the pulpit of his Beltsville church. They sent him out to spread their version of the Gospel, and off he went, hopscotching across the country. Sometimes crowds would gather around him like geese, in Denver, in Los Angeles, sometimes 10,000 at a time. He spoke to swelling groups of people who felt the same way he did about same-sex marriage: No, no, no.

He popped up on national talk shows. The conservative radio commentators ushered him into their studios.

And he'd come back to the District, feeling almost unstoppable.

But Tuesday afternoon, Jackson, 56, one of the more vociferous leaders in the anti-gay-marriage movement across the country, suffered yet another setback -- this one perhaps lethal -- when he received word that the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics had ruled against his "Marriage Initiative of 2009," which would have recognized only marriage between a man and a woman. While gays cannot marry in the District, same-sex marriages legally performed in other states and countries are recognized.

The ruling means Jackson's initiative will not be on the local ballot for 2010, his months-long objective.

"We always believed we'd have to take it to Superior Court," Jackson says just minutes after receiving a hand-delivered copy of the ruling. "We believe the board has a wrong interpretation of the Human Rights Act."

Board spokeswoman Alysoun McLaughlin says: "The board cannot accept an initiative that authorizes discrimination prohibited under the D.C. Human Rights Act."

But even if Jackson's options appear to be dwindling, he vows the battle will continue.

"The Lord is in all this," the bishop believes.

Setbacks seem only to embolden him.

"All over the country, it's evident that the strategy of the radical gay movement is to work the courts and legislatures," Jackson says. "It's gonna be a knock-down, drag-out legal situation."

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company