Bishop Harry Jackson took the next step in his campaign against marriage equality today, testifying before the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics that the board should approve Jackson’s proposed referendum, which would overturn a new DC law recognizing same-sex marriages conducted legally in other jurisdictions. Jackson and his allies are demanding that the board of elections allow them to put the question before voters.
The only real question facing the elections board is whether overturning the recognition law is a proper subject for a referendum. Jackson’s legal hurdle is that DC law clearly prohibits a referendum that “would unlawfully discriminate under the Human Rights Act.” The Human Rights Act states that the city cannot deny benefits based on gender or sexual orientation (among a range of other protections). Board members seemed skeptical of the arguments by Jackson and his allies that it did not count as discrimination to recognize some marriages carried out in other states but not to recognize others.
Jackson had some new help in the form of Brian Raum, a lawyer from the Alliance Defense Fund, a national Religious Right law firm. Others testifying for Jackson’s referendum included a couple of other preachers and the director of a teen abstinence group. Rev. Walter Fauntroy, former DC congressional delegate, was a no-show, though he’s expected to submit written testimony. (Speaking on Fauntroy’s behalf was attorney David New, who tangled with PFAWF years ago in his unsuccessful efforts to pass a school prayer referendum. He’s now apparently part of Jackson’s legal team.)
For appalling comic relief of sorts was a guy named Leroy Swailes, who testified in a shirt emblazoned with www.thirdgender666.com
. The essence of Swailes’ testimony was that this can’t be about human rights because gays are inhuman and anti-Christ. A woman who took the microphone uninvited at the end of the hearing said she represented “the nations” – and claimed that Latino and Korean Christians in the District were “on fire.”
Jackson is clearly unhappy about recent reporting by the Washington Blade that has called into question the legitimacy of his status as a DC resident, which he swore to in filing paperwork for the referendum. Jackson’s church is in Maryland and that’s where he has lived and voted until he registered as a DC voter in April. Jackson deflected reporters’ questions about that status by insisting that he was a legal DC resident and saying that reporters and bloggers were putting his safety and family at risk by making his address public. He refused to answer a reporter’s direct question about whether he’d moved into the District just to run this campaign. Keep an eye on the Blade for more on Jackson’s legal residency.