D.C. Board of Elections Refuses Public Vote on Same-Sex Marriage

D.C. Board of Elections Refuses Public Vote on Same-Sex Marriage

On Tuesday, the Washington, D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics voted to refuse a ballot initiative that would open the definition of marriage in D.C. for public vote, claiming the initiative violated human rights.

The board denied the petition the same day it scheduled a December 1 City Council vote on the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009.” The new amendment, which would legalize same-sex marriage in the D.C., is sponsored by 9 of the 13 city council members and the city’s mayor. Although the bill has to be voted on twice before passing, it is assumed the amendment will pass without difficulty.

The pro-family group Stand4MarriageDC proposed the squashed ballot measure in order to allow a public vote on this important issue. The measure allowed citizens to vote whether “only marriage between a man and woman” should be “valid or recognized” in the city.

The two-member Board of Elections, however, decided that the initiative was discriminatory and therefore violated the city’s 1977 Human Rights Act. Errol R. Arthur, one of the two board members, stated in a press release Tuesday that the “laws of the District of Columbia preclude us from allowing this initiative to move forward.”

According to David A. Catania, the City Council member who introduced the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment, “Those who proposed the initiative were attempting to write discrimination into our law, and I am pleased that the board rejected this effort as an impermissible trespass on the human rights of District residents.”

The leader of Stand For Marriage DC, Bishop Harry Jackson, has a bit more democratic view of the issue. “To deny the people their fundamental right to vote on such an important issue as the definition of marriage in our society is simply appalling,” he said.

“The Home Rule Charter tells us that we should have the same rights as the DC Board of Elections and as the DC City Council,” Jackson continued.  “In other words, if they can vote on something, we can vote on something.  If they can initiate a law, we should be able to initiate a law, as what is done in Maine and California.”

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