Harry Jackson and the Battle for DC

While it is still unclear whether Bishop Harry Jackson actually lives in the District of Columbia, he has, over the last couple of weeks, managed to establish himself as the leader of those fighting the DC government’s efforts towards granting marriage equality to its residents … and has recently begun efforts to paint those opposed to his efforts as a bunch of outsiders and interlopers.

For instance, take a look at his most recent column in which he seeks to paint himself and former DC Mayor Marion Barry as the true voices of the residents of the District.  Calling Barry the “quintessential grassroots politician,” Jackson praises his new-found opposition to gay marriage as representative of the views of the District as a whole because he is, after all “someone who was so in touch with the pulse of his community that he could emerge from a prison cell and get re-elected in his beloved city.”  

Jackson then lashes out at his opponents, claiming that they are reduced to busing in supporters and buying off city council members in order to create the illusion of support for marriage equality among DC residents:  

The side that needs the most credibility buses in many voters from other parts of the city to attempt to drum up support for their side. It’s amazing the “academy award winning performances” that people will put on when buses, stipends, and professional organizers are paid for. In DC’s case the same group that has given campaign donations to “swing vote” council members are behind these new efforts. 

The ironic thing about this complaint is that Jackson’s anti-marriage rally last month consisted almost entirely of people who did not live in DC:

LL spoke to ten individuals after the 90-minute rally ended. None were current residents of the District of Columbia.

One, a youth minister from Bowie, Md., was taking time off of work to join the rally. “It think it’s important that whenever people are taking a stand, we need to support people taking a stand,” he said. While he personally doesn’t like in the District, he said “friends and relatives will be affected by it.”

Another, the Rev. John Hardy of Stafford, Va., came with his wife and a congregant from his flock at Covenant Family Worship Center after getting a call from Jackson. He says he plans to tell the rest of his flock about his event and pray for local politicos. “We believe that prayer does things,” he says.

A couple from Chevy Chase, Md., Jim and Joan Schnabel, came after getting an e-mail alert from the FRC. Jim pointed out that he was a native Washingtonian. “Probably the only one here,” he cracked. Joan pointed out that D.C. isn’t quite the same as other places: “It is the center of the nation. It influences the world.”

Heck, Jackson even admitted to the Washington Post that his efforts are largely dependent on outsiders: 

[Jackson] says he’s not the least bit reluctant to recruit out-of-town supporters to put pressure on the city’s politicians. He tells me that the Alexandria-based political consulting firm of Shirley and Bannister, a longtime player in conservative Republican national and local campaigns, is handling planning and execution of the effort to defeat D.C. same-sex marriage initiatives, both at the council level and — should the city pass this and a measure legalizing same-sex bonds here — in Congress. Jackson won’t say who’s paying the consulting firm or who’s bankrolling his effort to build a coalition of pastors against the D.C. bill. 

But the way he sees it, his efforts are entirely justified because the battle for marriage is, in essence, a war and in war control of the nation’s capital is paramount:

What happens in DC will affect the nation. In traditional wars that are fought in armed conflict, there is always an attempt to seize the capital of the nation. The capital is a nerve center and defeating it always renders numerous aspects of the nation’s potential resistance impossible. In addition, the loss of the capital disheartens everyone except the most experienced warriors. Taking a nation’s capital in physical war in most cases means the defeat of the nation.

Applying this principle of war to our struggle to preserve the potential and power of biblical marriage, we have to protect marriage in the nation’s capital. We must wage a non-physical, non-violent, political war to protect the definition and potential of marriage for future generations.

And, as such, he is now bringing in reinforcements: 

This Wednesday and Thursday over 400 pastors will gather in DC to be briefed about major issues of our day, lobby Congress, and carry out spiritual prayer walks in the capital city area. Representatives from this group will host a press conference at 1pm on Thursday. Ministers from around the country and from Washington, DC will unite to make their voices heard. 

Meanwhile, what have the residents of the District of Columbia been up to?

[Y]esterday, gay rights advocates declared victory in a key battle to set the tone for the issue when the Ward 8 Democrats voted 21 to 11 to support the legalization of same-sex marriage, in preparation for legislation expected to be introduced in the D.C. Council this year.

If, as Jackson says, the “side that needs the most credibility” is the side that has to bus in supporters, then what does it say about his efforts considering that he is bringing 400 pastors to Washington while the most important political organization in Marion Berry’s own ward publicly supports marriage equality?