A DC Court of Appeals, in a 5-4 ruling last week, upheld same-sex marriage in the District. The ruling was in response to a prior decision, by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics, not to allow voters to decide on the issue via a referendum process in the District.
According to the Washington Post, the DC Council approved same sex marriage in December 2009. The bill then became law, after a court upheld the council’s decision, in March 2010. This most recent court decision confirmed a lower court’s ruling when it disallowed a ballot measure to move forward “because it would promote discrimination against gay men and lesbians.”
It’s essentially what the most recent ruling from the DC Court of Appeals stated as well:
The judges said they were convinced that the council would not have authorized “any initiative” that would have discriminated against residents and violated the Human Rights Act. The judges also wrote that the board “correctly determined that the proposed initiative would have the effect of authorizing such discrimination.”
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The judges further stated that the council “was not obliged to allow initiatives that would have the effect of authorizing discrimination prohibited by the Human Rights Act to be put to voters, and then to repeal them, or to wait for them to be challenged as having been improper subjects of initiative, should they be approved by voters.”
Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church, led the charge against the same sex marriage law arguing through his lawyers that DC residents were being discriminated against by taking away their right to vote on this issue. In response to the DC Court of Appeals ruling, Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, one of the key opponents to same sex marriage, argued:
“In America, we respect the right to vote. The citizens of the District of Columbia should not have their voices suppressed by the government, but that is exactly what is happening here. The decision from the D.C. Court of Appeals means that those living in our nation’s capitol are being denied their most fundamental freedom: the right to vote. We are considering our options to right this wrong, which include asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider this case.”
According to the Washington Post article on Friday, July 16th, the four dissenters in the opinion specifically noted that they were not ruling against same sex marriage but questioned whether the Board was acting within the scope of the law by refusing to allow a referendum on the issue.
Alliance Defense Fund and their partner in the case, Stand4Marriage, are “considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.”