ADF appeals DC board’s faulty decision to deny vote on same-sex ‘marriage’

ADF attorneys file suit on behalf of Bishop Harry Jackson, others who say proposed referendum does not violate Human Rights Act
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

WASHINGTON — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics on behalf of Bishop Harry R. Jackson and other D.C. voters, challenging its vote Monday to deny the people a say on the city council’s decision to recognize same-sex “marriages” from other jurisdictions. In the suit, ADF attorneys point out that the board disregarded a previous court ruling when rejecting a referendum that would allow voters to decide the matter.

The board concluded that the referendum would violate the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977, but the lawsuit points out that the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled nearly 15 years ago that maintaining the recognition of marriage as one man and one woman does not violate the act.

“Marriage didn’t violate the Human Rights Act when the HRA passed 32 years ago, and it doesn’t now. That is simply a political argument meant to prevent the people from voting,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Brian Raum. “If the referendum violates the HRA, then the marriage statutes that have been on the books since D.C. was formed also violate the HRA, and that is absurd.”

On May 5, the D.C. City Council hastily passed The Jury and Marriage Amendment Act of 2009 with a 12 to 1 vote to recognize same-sex “marriages” from other jurisdictions. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty signed the bill the next day.

Bishop Harry Jackson and other D.C. voters filed a request May 27 to create a citywide referendum that would give voters the opportunity to vote on the board’s decision on the basis that the people of D.C., not the city council, have the ultimate power to decide public policy concerning marriage. The lawsuit contends that to oppose the referendum is to oppose the right of people to decide how they are governed.

On Monday, the D.C. Board denied the referendum request, claiming it violates the HRA. Now ADF attorneys have filed a petition for review with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, contending that the D.C. Court of Appeals already ruled in the lawsuit Dean v. District of Columbia (1995) that declining to recognize same-sex “marriage” does not violate the HRA. The lawsuit therefore asserts that the D.C board ruled in direct contradiction to established precedent.

“Marriage pre-existed the Human Rights Act by centuries in the district. They have co-existed for a generation without conflict,” Raum explained. “The HRA has never required the redefinition of marriage or the recognition of non-marriages. Opponents of the referendum have twisted a law to impose their agenda without the people’s consent.”

The petition for review of agency decision and for writ in the nature of mandamus was filed with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Civil Division, in Jackson v. District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.