ADF joins legal battle to defend rights of voters in DC

Lawsuit filed on behalf of Pastor Harry Jackson, others argues Board of Elections improperly amended DC Charter, depriving citizens of right to vote
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WASHINGTON — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit Wednesday against the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics for precluding the right of citizens in the district to vote for or against the definition of marriage.  The board determined Tuesday that a citizen initiative that would allow voters to either uphold or reject the longstanding definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is not a proper subject for the ballot because of a law passed by the D.C. Council.  ADF and Stand4MarriageDC attorneys argue that the board’s reasoning is invalid.

“The people of D.C. have a right to vote on the definition of marriage,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks. “The D.C. Charter guarantees the people the right to vote, and the council cannot amend the charter for any reason, much less to deny citizens the right to vote. ADF will defend the right of the residents of our nation’s capitol to participate in a legitimate democratic process in the district.”

“The people of the district have the same right as the D.C. Council to propose legislation in on any subject not related to appropriations,” said Cleta Mitchell, counsel to Stand4MarriageDC.com, the proponents of the Marriage Initiative of 2009. “The council cannot legally erect additional barriers to the people’s exercise of that right. The D.C. courts have upheld that principle in prior cases, and we are confident that we are on solid legal ground in arguing that the denial of this petition is unlawful and must be reversed by the court.”

The Board of Elections rejected the Marriage Initiative of 2009 on the basis that it somehow “authorizes or would have the effect of authorizing discrimination proscribed by the HRA [District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977].”  However, ADF attorneys point out that no act unrelated to expenditures passed by the D.C. Council can preclude the right of the citizens to vote as guaranteed by the D.C. Charter, which serves as a constitution for the district.

“This additional subject matter restriction impermissibly conflicts with the broad nature of the right of initiative reserved by the people in the Charter Amendments Act,” the ADF petition states.  “Proponents further seek the declaration of this Court that the Initiative does not violate the HRA, because this Court and the Court of Appeals have consistently held that the regulation of the marital relationship falls outside the intended scope of the HRA.”

ADF attorneys represent Bishop Harry Jackson, who heads the Marriage Initiative of 2009 effort, and seven other D.C. registered voters in the lawsuit, Jackson v. District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics, filed with the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. 
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.