D.C. Conservatives Push for Gay Marriage Vote

Traditional marriage advocates in the nation's capital are seeking to roll back the city's pending gay marriage law by forcing a voter referendum on the issue.

As part of the effort, conservative group Stand for Marriage D.C. has launched an ad campaign through the city's transportation system – a move that is being opposed by Full Equality Now DC, which has demanded the ads be removed on the grounds that they disrespect LGBT residents.

The ads, which state "Let the People Vote on Marriage," are appearing on buses belonging to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and directing people to visit Stand for Marriage D.C.'s website, www.stand4marriagedc.com, where more information on their initiative is posted.

Stand for Marriage D.C., a conservative group that draws support from a broad range of organizations and individuals on the marriage issue, says it is standing up for the right of voters to decide whether to legalize homosexual marriage, noting that voters in 30 other states have already been able to exercise their right to vote and all 30 states voted in favor of traditional marriage.

"This initiative is about allowing the voters of Washington, D.C. their rightful say on the critical issue of traditional marriage," coordinators of Stand for Marriage D.C. say.

"It does nothing to put in jeopardy the numerous domestic partnership laws protecting gay couples," they add, countering those who say the gay marriage issue is about rights.

Since 1992, the District of Columbia has recognized domestic partnerships and, earlier this year, the D.C. Council unanimously voted to recognize gay and lesbian marriages performed elsewhere.

The bill signed last week by Washington Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, meanwhile, would make Washington the first city to give same-sex couples both the option to marry or enter a domestic partnership.

The city's council had voted 11-2 to pass the bill on Dec. 15, and the bill now must pass a 30-day period of Congressional review to become law. Once the bill is passed, gay couples may be able to wed in the district as early as March.

Though some expect the bill to pass without a scratch, traditional marriage advocates are working to get Congress to overturn the bill.

They say denying the people's right to vote on the issue violates the D.C. City Charter and, for that reason, Congress has an obligation to send the bill back to the mayor.

"The people of D.C. have a right to vote on the definition of marriage," commented Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel at Alliance Defense Fund, which has filed a lawsuit on behalf of eight D.C. citizens.

"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," he added in a statement.

Aside from the lawsuit, traditional marriage advocates are advancing their efforts by mobilizing traditional marriage supporters to call upon the D.C. oversight committee and every member of Congress to take seriously the charter violation and to not let the issue slip through unchallenged.

"If our ballot initiative filing is successful, District residents will be able to vote on preserving traditional marriage in either November 2010 or as part of a special election," Stand For Marriage D.C. reported.

Presently, gay marriage is legal only in four states – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont. A New Hampshire law takes effect Jan. 1, 2010.

The 30-day Congressional review period in Washington includes only the days when the Congressional bodies are in session.