D.C. Gay Marriage Challenged in Appeals Court

Opponents of Washington, D.C.'s new same-sex marriage law took the battle to the court of appeals Tuesday, demanding that the issue be decided by the people, not by legislators.

Led by Maryland megachurch pastor Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. – who filed the lawsuit against the city on behalf of Stand 4 Marriage D.C. – traditional marriage proponents are asking that residents be given their right to vote on the same-sex marriage law.

Jackson appeared on CBN News Tuesday and likened the D.C. same-sex marriage fight to that of California in that "a law was passed by the legislators that doesn't reflect the will of the people."

"The D.C. city charter gives the people the right to vote and the right to initiate and strike down laws," Jackson contended.

A Washington Post poll earlier this year showed 59 percent of D.C. adult residents believe the definition of marriage in the district should be decided by a "Yes" or "No" vote.

In December, D.C. lawmakers passed the law legalizing same-sex marriage in the district. The District of Columbia Superior Court in January upheld the Board of Elections and Ethics decision to refuse the ballot initiative. Chief Justice John Roberts in March also refused to intervene in a last-minute attempt by traditional marriage proponents to stop D.C.'s same-sex marriage law from taking effect.

The law went into effect on March 3.

For opponents of the district's same-sex marriage law, it has been a particularly strenuous battle given the political and social climate of the district. Washington, D.C. is home to the Human Rights Campaign – the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization. The city also has two openly gay council members and one of the nation's highest proportions of same-sex couples living together.

Despite the odds, Jackson is determined to challenge the law because he believes its effect will go beyond the district.

"This (D.C. gay marriage) would be the next step in trying to deemphasize or do away with the Defense of Marriage Act, called DOMA," Jackson warned. "President Obama said he would sign a repeal of DOMA law and I believe people are working and maneuvering Congress to make that happen."

Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, who is representing Jackson and Stand 4 Marriage D.C., said the case is also important because it is essentially about democracy and the right to vote.

Tuesday's hearing was before the full nine-judge appeals court. Usually, the case is first heard by a three-judge panel.

The Court of Appeals is expected to make its decision some time this year.

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