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Government and People
Washington, District of Columbia
Testimony Before the Board of Elections and Ethics on
"A Referendum concerning the Jury and Marriage Amendment Act of 2009”
Is it a proper subject for a referendum in the District of Columbia?
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
10:30 AM, Room 220 South
One Judiciary Square
441 Fourth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.
I am here in full support of the referendum to repeal the law recognizing same sex marriage from other jurisdictions. Not only is the referendum on the Jury and Marriage Amendment Act of 2009 an appropriate subject for a referendum, it is definitely needed and should have been done instead of the DC Council’s rushed vote without a hearing and with the mayor’s support.
The definition of marriage is an institution or system around the world and is rooted in anthropology and history. Marriage is generally and traditionally viewed as the union between man and woman. There are some cultures that allow more than one wife, but still the relationship is a male-female relationship. Marriage is based on tradition, social norms, mores, religion, and beliefs. It is evident that laws evolve from public opinion, beliefs and so forth. The Ten Commandments is a good example. Additionally, the United States was established with a culture of religion and even puts “In God We Trust” on its currency, so faith is a big part of our culture. Marriage is based on a belief system and to some it is honored by and based on a definition established by a higher power. Marriage has its problems and may not be celebrated by as many as once before, but still most people consider it between a man and a woman.
With such significance in the lives of people and the understanding of what it means to many, the Council and Mayor should have given the public more respect and allowed citizens an opportunity to decide the fate and direction of marriage. There wasn’t an opportunity for civic associations and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners to vet the issue. There was no public hearing. The bill that was advertised was Bill 18-0010, “Disclosure to the United States District Court Amendment Act of 2009. Few people paid attention to the title of this bill and it wasn’t until the clergy alerted citizens’ to what the issue really was really about. It was almost as if elected officials were trying to keep the issue out of the spotlight so that there would be no repercussions or protest.
There is a majority of states that have marriage defined on their legal books as the union between one man and one woman. Some state that they do not recognize same sex marriages from other jurisdictions. In some states where the legislature decided to redefine marriage to allow for same sex marriage, the public has or is in the process of getting a ballot measure to preserve the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
While I fully support this proposed ballot measure, I think that the language should be simpler and clearer and should address the entire issue of same sex marriage in the District of Columbia. The ballot measure should simply ask in a clear manner the question: Should the District of Columbia allow or recognize same sex marriage? Yes or No. Should the District of Columbia define and recognize marriage as only the union between one man and one woman? Yes or No. Change the referendum language to reflect that. Additionally, the public or groups shouldn’t have to go out to get signatures to do this. The Council should follow the Advisory Referendum Process and put the issue on the ballot themselves. That would be the right thing to do. That would the fair thing to do for the public.
Civil rights, equal protection and human rights seems to be the rallying cry for the same sex marriage agenda. Those that question that are quickly called bigots or something. A difference of opinion does not make one a bigot. Many do not feel that the choice for one’s lifestyle entitles one to all the benefits of a married couple. The jury is still out on the nature vs. nurture theories on why some follow an alternative lifestyle. Additionally, the District government has provided the opportunity for benefits through its domestic partnership policies. There is no discrimination. There is no civil rights violation. The D.C. Human Rights Act has been raised as an issue. The Act was not changed to accommodate the new law to specifically address marriage. Those states that have human rights laws addressed the issue and came to an agreement that that law was not violated. There is a right to limit benefits even with human rights issues. But I will leave this to the legal experts to discuss.
I encourage the Board of Elections and Ethics to approve this measure for the ballot and to take it one step further and expand the language to address the total issue of same sex marriage. Put the matter to rest one way or the other with a ballot measure. The council and mayor should not move forward with any actions on same sex marriage until the people have spoken via a referendum or initiative. Finally, the council should put an advisory referendum on the ballot and restore the trust, faith, and confidence in government and to give the public a right to be heard. Let the people vote on this very controversial issue and see if they want a change to the traditional definition of marriage. I look forward to voting on this ballot measure.
Additional remarks (paraphrased here) made that were not part of the written statement (comments were dispersed throughout the paper and some at the conclusion)
Comments neglected to mention:
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