A proposed measure that would let District of Columbia voters use the bailot to enact or revoke laws has been put in peril by an amendment designed to protect human rights, the D.C. City Council was told yesterday.
The endangered measure would create the machinery for the proposed initiative, referendum and recall procedures that were authorized at a municipal election last November and later ratified by Congress.
As voted upon by the public, the measure sets up a petition procedure permitting public votes on measures dealing with almost all municipal matters except taxation and city operating budgets.
Last month, the council's government operations committee added an amendment offered by Marison Barry (D-At Large) designed to prevent the use of the new procedures to restrict human rights, such as those granted homosexuals under the city's law against discrimination.
Edward B. Webb, the council's top lawyer, told a legislative review meeting yesterday that the amendment goes beyond the terms approved by the voters in November, and may underline the legality of the whole measure.
Louis P. Robbins, the city's principal deputy corporation counsel, issued a ruling that reached the same conclusion. "The merits of the policy...(are)beside the point," Robbins wrote.
Council Chairman Sterling Tucker told staff aides to attempt to resolve the issue, or be prepared to pull the measure off the agenda for next Tuesday's council meeting. The council is under a legal deadline to enact the measure by Oct. 1. Procedurally, that would be difficult to meet.
The amendment was requested by gay activist organizations after voters in several other cities, 'starting with Miami, used referendum procedures to repeal homosexual rights ordinances.
Franklin G. Kameny, a member of the D.C. Human Rights Commission and a leading gay spokesman, voiced hopes that proper language could be written to clear up the dispute.