Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Marriage Equality Stands in DC

This morning, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from opponents of marriage equality who want to overturn the District of Columbia's same-sex marriage law. Their decision allows the prior ruling from the DC Court of Appeals to stand. 

On July 15, 2010, in a 5-4 verdict, the appeals court had ruled against Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr.'s lawsuit which would have required a citywide referendum, giving DC's citizens the opportunity to vote on whether or not same-sex couples would be allowed to marry in our nation's capital. The defendants in the case, the DC Board of Elections and Ethics, had decided that to put gay marriage on the ballot would be to potentially authorize discrimination that was in violation of the Human Rights Act.

In the ruling last July, Associate Judge Thompson, writing for the majority, said “We therefore affirm the Superior Court’s rulings that the Council acted lawfully in imposing the Human Rights Act safeguard and that the Board correctly determined that the safeguard required it to reject the proposed initiative.” While the dissenting judges disagreed concerning the authorities cited in the case, it is interesting to note that all nine justices unanimously agreed that a voted prohibition against gay marriage was a wholesale violation of the Human Rights Act, stating "the Board correctly determined that the proposed initiative would have the effect of authorizing such discrimination."

Last year, Washington began issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, and in 2009 it began recognizing such marriages legally performed elsewhere.

Bishop Harry R. Jackson
Jackson has been staunchly opposing the efforts to legalize marriage equality in the District since the city first began considering such legislation. He writes in his weekly blog that extending the right to marry to LGBT citizens will result in "a call for legalization of polygamy, which includes polygyny (sic) (a man with multiple wives) or polyamory (which may be two men with a woman or any imaginable combination)." He calls supporters of marriage equality "all bullies or terrorists" and claims that "Marriage defenders have over 5,000 years of history, proven social science, natural law, the teachings of every major religion, and common sense on their side," conveniently ignoring the undisputed fact that, for most of those 5,000 years, polygamous marriages were the accepted norm and that todays 2-person, love-based marriages bear little resemblance to the property-based arranged marriages of the past.

He writes that he opposes marriage equality laws, "because of the impact this law will have on the way education and child rearing will be conducted," and that "Federal benefit changes will affect the already exorbitant cost of proposed healthcare reform." (It's interesting to note that he also opposed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, writing, "This legislation has the potential to criminalize the caring attempts of black clergy to maintain the tension of preaching clear traditional doctrine while reaching out to people in need of love and direction." He also agrees with the Pope on the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS, writing, "Pope Benedict XVI made the following statement in Yaounde, Cameroon, 'You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms... On the contrary, it increases the problem.' As far as I can tell, contrary to my friend's opinion, the Pope was right this time.")

According to the Washington Blade, Jackson and his wife don't even reside in the District of Columbia. It would appear that they own two houses in Montgomery County, Maryland, and neighbors claim they reside in one of those houses. For the purpose of voting, however, Jackson claims residence in a condominium in the Mount Vernon Triangle area of DC. Tax records show a Mr. Joseph Honaker owns this one-bedroom condo and also claims it as his primary residence. Must get pretty crowded. Maybe Jackson understands the ins and outs of polyamorous marriages from personal experience?

Below, video of Jackson interview after the appeals court ruling as he was preparing to take his case to SCOTUS:

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