Should DISTRICT citizens be able to vote directly [WORD ILLEGIBLE] against the city's human-rights law? And if [WORD ILLEGIBLE] what matters should be subject to the direct [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of the popular will? Those are just two of questions raised by a legislative amendment now [WORD ILLEGIBLE] City Council that would prevent voters [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the city's initiative and referendum [WORD ILLEGIBLE] change the human-right laws. The amendment sponsored by councilman-at-large Marion [WORD ILLEGIBLE] really aimed at preventing an initiative or [WORD ILLEGIBLE] that would remove homosexuals from [WORD ILLEGIBLE] specific protection. Local homosexual [WORD ILLEGIBLe] mindful of the recent votes across the country [WORD ILLEGIBLE] homosexual-rights ordinances, have [WORD ILLEGIBLE] vigorously for the amendment. They argue [WORD ILLEGIBLE] protecting an individual's basic freedoms [WORD ILLEGIBLE] sheltered from the will of the majority. [WORD ILLEGIBLE] seeking a reaffirmation of the City Council [WORD ILLEGIBLE] against discrimination based on sexual [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and a guarantee against the possible ani- [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the electorate.
[WORD ILLEGIBLE] proposed amendment would create several [WORD ILLEGIBLE] without increasing the protection the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] law affords homosexuals or anyone else. For [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the amendments would also prevent an [WORD ILLEGIBLE] referendum on laws that make distinctions between citizens that are deemed good for society (such as affirmative-action laws or measures establishing a residency requirement for District government jobs). Under the amendment, the board of elections would determine whether an initiative or referendum proposal would have a discriminatory effect. We don't think that body should make that kind of decision. And finally, the amendment still would allow repeal of one or more of the categories covered by the human-rights law - so long as the measure didn't propose to discriminate against someone.
There's another reason we oppose Mr. Barry's amendment. It has to do with the purpose of having the initiative, referendum and recall procedures. With a few exceptions, the District's voters, under those procedures, can propose laws, suspend acts of the City Council and recall elected officials. Those procedures, which encourage additional community involvement in governing the city, were approved by the voters just last year - after being heartily endorsed by the Council. Is the coucil now to begin restricting further what the electorate can vote on? We hope not. Mr. Barry's amendment, aside from being bad law, would be a bad precedent. We think this is an unwise measure. The council should reject it.