The U.S. Supreme Court refused on Tuesday to hear the appeal of Washington D.C.'s gay marriage law, ending a local pastor's efforts to uphold the institution's traditional definition.
America's high court rejected Bishop Harry Jackson's appeal to challenge the District of Columbia's refusal to put the question of legislating same-sex marriage before the voters.
The appeal had previously lost in the Board of Elections and Ethics and D.C. Court of Appeals. The board rejected Jackson's initial request saying that a marriage referendum would violate the city's Human Rights Act. The act bans, among other things, discrimination based on sexual orientation. The appeals court supported the board's decision by a 5-4 vote.
Jackson, the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Maryland, and other supporters appealed the case to the Supreme Court and urged it to hear a dispute, arguing that the issue was of national importance. By contrast, city officials filed briefs advising the court to defer to the judgment of appeals court.
"The statutes at issue are limited in effect to the District," the brief stated. "There is no national analogue to pertinent provisions of District law, and indeed no federal right of initiative at all."
The Supreme Court chose to pass on the trial. Court justices offered no explanation as to why they did not hear the case.
William B. May, chairman of Catholics for the Common Good, called the decision shocking, especially given that D.C. residents were "deprived of their right to vote on the definition of marriage."
"The Court's decision effectively upheld the finding of the Washington Human Rights Commission that it would be discriminatory to even give citizens a choice to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman," he said Tuesday.
Explaining the significance of the decision, he added, "What many people do not seem to realize is the real issue at play here has little to do with homosexuality or 'gay' lifestyles. The question is whether marriage is merely a committed relationship for the private interests of adults, the definition implicit in same-sex 'marriage,' or whether it unites a man and a woman with each other and any children that come from their union."
The court's decision allows Washington, D.C. to continue offering marriage licenses to homosexual couples. It is only the sixth local government to approve same-sex marriages. Other states that allow same-sex couples to wed are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.
The D.C. Council approved gay marriage in 2009 despite conservatives' efforts to issue a stay on the law's mandate to recognize gay ceremonies. That year, the council also passed a law that recognizes gay marriages performed outside the District.