1. D.C. voters have long supported diversity and inclusiveness, including equal rights for their GLBT neighbors. It has been three decades since an anti-gay candidate has been elected in our city. The anti-gay ministers have a long record of being politically ineffectual. See, for example, the fights in the early 1990s over domestic partnerships and sodomy law repeal. Several ministers thundered against those measures at the time, to no avail. Much of the opposition to marriage equality comes from outside the city. Ward 9 voters can neither elect nor defeat anyone.
2. Most clergy in the District have steered clear of Bishop Harry Jackson and his inflammatory demonstrations. This is partly because of Jackson's notoriety, including a sense that he is a tool of right-wing evangelical ministers whose purpose is exploitation rather than any ongoing fellowship; and partly because even many ministers opposed to marriage equality are not prepared to set aside more pressing issues for their communities like health care, jobs, and education in favor of a divisive and emotional fight that helps no one. There is little need for any Council member to worry that he or she will lose a re-election bid due to the ill-informed and misguided opposition of a small minority.
3. The claim by the anti-gay ministers that they will be forced by the government to conduct or approve of same-sex marriages is simply false, nor has any marriage equality advocate proposed any such thing. If the government ever sought to force ministers to perform same-sex marriages of which the ministers disapproved, we would gladly submit an amicus brief on the side of the ministers. This issue is a red herring. Ministers for religions that frown on divorce are not forced to marry people who have been divorced. No ministers in marriage-equality jurisdictions have been forced to marry same-sex couples. Council member David Catania stated in The Washington Post on May 10 that “any legislation that I propose will specifically protect the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. All religious institutions will be free to decide for themselves whether or not to solemnize same-sex marriages consistent with their religious beliefs.”
4. This is not a fight between activists on one side and clergy on the other.The GLBT community is one of diverse faiths, and includes many clergy members. A list of gay-affirming congregations compiled by the D.C. Office of GLBT Affairs is available online at: http://lgbt.
5. Marriage equality benefits people of all colors, contrary to efforts by Bishop Jackson to create a racial wedge issue. A majority of the District’s gay population is black, extrapolating from the fact that about 60 percent of the city's population is black. A number of leaders of D.C.’s marriage equality effort are African American, including Michael Crawford of D.C. for Marriage and Jeffrey Richardson of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. Furthermore, the Foundation for All D.C. Families recently provided Council members with a summary of polling data from 2006 showing that significant numbers of black voters, while short of a majority, support equal rights for same-sex couples and oppose any anti-gay initiative.
6. False lessons from Prop 8. Bishop Jackson invokes the passage of
7. Marriage helps people of all income levels, but provides the most help to couples with the fewest financial resources. This is because legal marriage serves as the “poor man’s lawyer,” granting couples a wealth of protections in one fell swoop that otherwise could only be approximated by a series of legal instruments costing thousands of dollars.
8. The 2006 poll commissioned by the Foundation for All D.C. Families shows strong majority support for marriage equality among likely District voters. When Bishop Jackson and his friends claim that the Council is way out of step with District voters, you should ask what happened to his thousand supporters on April 28, how many of those who did show up that day and May 5 were actually District voters, and where they are getting their polling information. Their over-the-top pronouncements have earned them only skepticism.
9. The claim that marriage has remained unchanged for millennia is preposterous. As Empire State Pride Agenda points out, "Marriage is a dynamic institution that has evolved throughout history to meet the needs of society. In fact, much of what was associated with marriage in the past would today be incomprehensible to the majority of Americans. This includes arranged marriages, payment of a dowry, the legally inferior status of women in the marital relationship, polygamous marriages and royal and aristocratic marriage between relatives, such as first cousins."
10. The push for marriage equality is not just about rights, but about people embracing responsibility. When two people of whatever gender seal their mutual love and commitment with a marriage contract, the community is strengthened. Children are better protected when both of their parents are legally responsible for them, and marriage is the best way of assuring this. Civil unions and domestic partnerships lack the universal recognition and legal certainty of marriage. There are bound to be tensions in any diverse society, but the fact that someone disapproves of, or is uncomfortable with, a particular family is no justification for placing that family outside the protection of the law. We are talking about the simple justice of extending equal protection to all families in our city. Let’s keep D.C. on the right side of history.
1. “Mr. Barry’s Ugly Words,” Editorial, The
2. Gay and Lesbian Activists
3. Gay and Lesbian Activists
4. D.C. Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, “
5. Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight, “Prop 8 Myths,” November 11, 2008http://www.fivethir
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