Michael Crawford

Recap: DC marriage equality twists and turns

Filed By Michael Crawford | June 16, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: gay marriage in DC, Harry Jackson, Marion Barry, marriage equality

The twists and turns in our efforts to win marriage equality in Washington, D.C. have been worthy of any soap opera. John Shields, the new managing editor of Bilerico-DC, has asked me to write a recap of recent events. So, let's start with a bit of good news, work our way to how we got here and look at where things may go.

Yesterday, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) issued a ruling denying a request by a group of anti-gay clergy members to collect signatures to place on the ballot whether or not the District should recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. The BOEE cited a provision in D.C, election law that prohibits a popular vote on a matter covered by the D.C. Human Rights Act - which includes sexual orientation.

On May 5, members of the D.C. City Council overwhelmingly passed the marriage recognition bill in an amazing showing of commitment to full equality for all residents of the District .

The lone vote against the marriage recognition bill was former mayor and current City Council Member Marion Barry who joined anti-gay conservatives from outside of D.C. like Bishop Harry Jackson and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council to oppose equal rights for LGBT families. At the time Marion Barry claimed that "civil war" would break out if marriages between same-sex couples were allowed.

"All hell is going to break lose," Barry said while speaking to reporters. "We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this."

Shortly after Marion Barry made his comments members of the Ward 8 Democrats, an influential group of local Democrats on the ward represented by Barry voted by a 2 - 1 margin to pass a resolution supporting marriage equality. Democratic clubs in Wards 1, 2, 4, and 6 have also passed resolutions supporting marriage equality. Ward 5 voted against a resolution supporting marriage and votes are expected soon on marriage resolutions in Wards 3 and 7.

The marriage recognition bill is now in the Congressional review period during which Congress has 30 legislative days to take action or not on the bill. Because D.C. is not a state, Congress has the final say over the District's laws and budget. The Congressional review period is expected to end on July 7. After that date the bill will become law.

At the BOEE hearing Bishop Jackson and his supporters used the most vile language imaginable in arguing against marriage recognition. One of Jackson's colleagues claimed that gay and lesbian families are "Anti-Christ" and said that LGBT people don't deserve human rights because we are not human.

With their request for a referendum denied, Bishop Jackson, National Organization for Marriage and others are expected to immediately appeal the BOEE decision.

Meanwhile local and national LGBT organizations and allied groups are building support for the expected introduction of a full marriage bill later this year. The coalition of groups working together include D.C. for Marriage, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C. for Democracy, Human Rights Campaign and The Task Force.

The most powerful expression of support for marriage equality has come from Clergy for Marriage, a multiracial and multi-denominational group of faith leaders who developed the Declaration of Religious Support for Marriage Equality. 150 clergy members from all wards of the city have signed the declaration.

Stay tuned because there is more, much more to come in our fight for marriage equality in D.C.

Disclosure: I am founder and co-chair of D.C. for Marriage.


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I was in DC when the initial firestorm broke out and saw your eloquent defense of the 12-1 vote on the news the next night.

Thanks for all you do, and I promise next time I'm in DC we'll have to get together for lunch.

Any good rib joints in DC? ;)

MIchael- Isn't there supposed to be some scandal or legal problem about Bishop Jackson and his claimed DC residency ? What's with this, and is he being investigated by the DC prosecutors on any of it??

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | June 16, 2009 4:10 PM

There are questions that have been raised by some reporters about whether or not Jackson actually lives in the District and when did he move into the city.

He only recently registered to vote in D.C. He reportedly shares a one bedroom condo with another man while his family lives in Maryland.

How anyone could take Jackson's words as anything other than hilarious crazy talk is beyond me. He's obviously demented.