7/15/2010 – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, applauded a D.C. Court of Appeals ruling today that rejected a proposed initiative on the D.C. marriage equality law. In March 2010, D.C. became the sixth jurisdiction in the nation to permit same-sex couples to marry. While Bishop Harry Jackson, a pastor in Maryland, has been the public face of this litigation, the truth is that outside groups like the National Organization for Marriage and the Alliance Defense Fund are the driving force behind these anti-equality measures.
“The court’s ruling today is a significant victory for justice, the rule of law and the protection of all D.C. residents against discrimination,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “It’s time for the National Organization for Marriage to realize equality is here to stay no matter how much money they want to throw at turning back the clock.”
In its decision, the Court of Appeals, D.C.’s highest court, decided 5-4 that the Council properly exercised its authority under the D.C. Charter in establishing the requirement that a proposed initiative may not authorize, or have the effect of authorizing, discrimination prohibited by the D.C. Human Rights Act. The Court ruled unanimously that the proposed initiative would in fact impermissibly permit discrimination against gays and lesbians in the District.
“The D.C. Council made a wise decision decades ago that no initiative should be permitted to strip away any individual’s civil rights. The Court unanimously found that the proposed anti-marriage initiative would have the effect of causing discrimination, and in doing so, stood up for the entire D.C. community,” said Solmonese.
On December 15, 2009, the D.C. Council overwhelmingly passed the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Act of 2009. The bill was signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty, transmitted to Congress for review and became law on March 3, 2010. The first marriages between same-sex couples were performed on March 9, 2010. The marriage equality law ensures that clergy and religious organizations are not required to provide services, accommodations, facilities or goods for the solemnization of a same-sex marriage.
“D.C.’s elected officials and courts have spoken, yet NOM may very well grasp at straws by appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in a desperate attempt to further their misguided efforts,” said Solmonese.
The Board of Elections & Ethics has repeatedly rejected proposed initiatives and referenda that would invalidate legislation passed by the Council and signed by the mayor recognizing same-sex marriages. D.C.’s lower courts uniformly rejected opponents’ claims that they were being denied a right to vote and upheld D.C.’s strong anti-discrimination protections.
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