Gay Marriage in DC: Ballot, Bill Addressed

Opponents and supporters of issue to testify

Opponents and supporters of gay marriage are both getting a shot to voice their opinions on the issue today.

Bishop Harry Jackson, a Maryland minister, is leading those for a voter initiative opposing same-sex marriage in the District. Jackson and those behind the initiative, which would say "only marriage between a man and woman'' is valid in the city, argued before D.C.'s Board of Elections that they should be able to try to put the measure on the city ballot to give voters the option of banning same-sex unions.

The two-member board will not vote Monday, but the board seemed particularly concerned that the initiative may violate the city's Human Rights Act. In June, the board blocked Jackson's request to hold a referendum on whether D.C. should recognize gay marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Lawyers for a group supporting the initiative told the board that it did not violate the 1977 act.

Jackson and his followers are pushing for a referendum on the issue in 2010 vs. a vote by the D.C. Council, which began hearing testimony from more than 125 people -- opponents and supporters -- of the same-sex marriage bill today at 3:30 p.m. on the fifth floor of the John Wilson City Hall Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.

The hearing, sponsored by the Council’s Committee on Public Safety & Judiciary, is to be held in the City Council chambers. Councilmember David Catania introduced the bill, which would make DC the first jurisdiction south of the Mason-Dixon line to allow same-sex marriage, and it was co-sponsored by nine of his colleagues earlier this month.

Another 150-plus people are expected to testify next week in part two of the marathon hearing.

On Sunday, religious leaders and opponents of same-sex marriage gathered at Freedom Plaza to protest against the bill. 

The hearing on the same-sex marriage bill is expected to take two days, with a continuation scheduled for Monday, Nov. 2, if more time is needed, according to DCist.

If the bill is approved by the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, it would then need to be approved by the whole city council -- which is expected to easily pass the legislation when the council votes on Dec. 1.

Meanwhile, a local group that supports Catania's bill will host "Soulful Voices for Marriage Equality" at 7 p.m. on Thursday, the Washington Blade reported. The two-hour event is scheduled to be held at Asbury United Methodist Church in D.C.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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