Thursday, July 15, 2010

Breaking: DC Appeals Court Upholds Marriage Law

From The Washington Post:

The D.C. Court of Appeals narrowly sustained same-sex marriage in the District on Thursday in a 5 to 4 vote.

The nine judges were asked to determine whether the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics acted lawfully when it rejected an initiative by opponents of gay marriage to have the matter voted upon by District residents in a referendum, rather than by the D.C. Council, which in December approved same-sex marriage.

A D.C. Superior Court judge upheld the board's decision in January and the initiative became law in March.

In May, attorneys for opponents of gay marriage, led by Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, argued before all nine appellate judges that the board's decision violated the District's Human Rights Act and that the council had overstepped its authority.

In an 81-page decision released Thursday, the five affirming judges -- Phyllis D. Thompson, Vanessa Ruiz, Indez Smith Reid, Noël Anketell Kramer and Anna Blackburne-Rigsby -- disagreed, writing that the board was within D.C. law in making such a decision.

The judges ruled that they think the council would not have authorized "any initiative" that would have discriminated against residents and violated the Human Rights Act. The judges also wrote that the board "correctly determined that the proposed initiative would have the effect of authorizing such discrimination."

The judges further ruled that the council "was not obliged to allow initiatives that would have the effect of authorizing discrimination prohibited by the Human Rights Act to be put to voters, and then to repeal them, or to wait for them to be challenged as having been improper subjects of initiative, should they be approved by voters."

Based on that conclusion, the judges ruled that the board acted lawfully in refusing to accept Jackson's initiative.

Peter D. Rosenstein, a gay and lesbian rights activist, hailed the ruling as a "victory for decency and civil and human rights."

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