Shortly after the District of Columbia City Council again voted 11-2 to legalize same-sex "marriage" on Dec. 15, church leaders and Christian organizations in the city and around the region say they are still pushing for their day in court and at the polls.
Leaders with the group Stand for Marriage DC Coalition say they are working on a multi-pronged strategy to oppose the recent legislation, which includes continuing the push for a ballot initiative, raising legal challenges and a congressional lobbying campaign.
Though the City Council has approved the unions – making it the sixth U.S. jurisdiction to do so – and DC Mayor Adrian Fenty has said he will sign the bill, Congress still has 30 days to review the bill after it becomes law.
And while it appears unlikely legislators will overturn the D.C. action, some leaders say not so fast.
“The rights of the people to vote have been stolen,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, chairman of the Stand for Marriage DC Coalition. “How is it that 31 other jurisdictions in the country have the right to vote and the people of DC aren’t good enough to get a vote?”
Jackson said the group had begun lobbying members of Congress even before the City Council cast their final vote on the issue. He said the coalition will continue its efforts with a leadership summit, and a calling campaign to Congress later this month.
Stand for Marriage DC, comprised of city residents and religious leaders, is joined in its efforts by the Missionary Baptist Ministers Conference of DC and Vicinity, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, the AME Churches, the Foursquare Churches, the Collective Banking Group and several of DC's Neighborhood Advisory Commissioners.
The group also is appealing a Nov. 17 decision by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics to deny a request for a ballot referendum defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Such a referendum "would authorize discrimination prohibited" under the city's Human Rights Act, according to the board. The case is scheduled to be heard in DC Superior Court Jan. 6.
“We know the Board of Elections is politically appointed, and we’re appealing their decision to the DC Superior Court,” Jackson said. “We have an awesome case. It’s really not fair what [gay marriage supporters] have done and the direction they’re moving in. If they’re so confident they know what the people need, then let [the people] vote.”
There’s good reason to believe the majority of DC residents would support defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Five states -- Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- recognize gay “marriage," but voters have not approved it in a ballot initiative in any of those states. All 31 states that have held ballot initiatives on the question of same-sex "marriage" – New York was the latest -- have affirmed the traditional view of the institution.
"It is tragic that the city council of our nation's capital is ignoring the city's citizens and pushing ahead to bring same-sex marriage to Washington, D.C., without allowing the people of the District of Columbia a direct chance to address this issue," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), after the final vote.
"There is every reason to believe that the citizens of the District of Columbia would do the same if given the opportunity," Land said.
Homosexual rights advocates viewed the bill's passage as another milestone for their movement.
"This legislation is an important and historic step towards equal dignity, equal respect and equal rights for same-sex couples here in our nation's capital...," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest homosexual rights organization.
As was the case Dec. 1, the only two D.C. council members to vote against the "gay marriage" bill were Marion Barry and Yvette Alexander, both Democrats.
The bill's opponents, including the ERLC, say the legislation will harm the institution of marriage as well as families and society. They also contend the measure does not appear to provide enough protection for the expression of religious belief by those who oppose "gay marriage."
"It will lead to the violation of the consciences of children in schools as they are subjected to teachings in an authoritarian environment that same-sex marriage is a legitimate form of marriage," Land said in a letter to the D.C. elections board before its ruling. "Changing the definition of marriage would likely also result in government restrictions on the religious freedom of religious groups, potentially exposing them to government reprisal for honoring their faith convictions" regarding homosexuality.
Defenders of the bill say it protects the rights of clergy and religious bodies.
The D.C. council voted 12-1 in May to recognize "same-sex marriages" performed in other jurisdictions. The law enables homosexual couples living in D.C. to have wedding ceremonies in states where "gay marriage" is legal and have those unions recognized by the district.
Tom Strode of the Baptist Press contributed to this article.