Friday, June 12, 2009

D.C. att’y gen’l says marriage referendum illegal

D.C. att’y gen’l says marriage referendum illegal

Ballot measure said to violate human rights law
By LOU CHIBBARO JR, Washington Blade | Jun 11 2009, 5:46 PM [Bookmark and Share]

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles issued a legal opinion Thursday saying a voter referendum seeking to overturn a city law recognizing same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions would violate the city's human rights law and should not be allowed.

Nickles submitted his four-page opinion to the D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics, which is deliberating whether to approve or deny a request by the pastor of a Maryland church and six other District residents that the board allow voters to decide on the same-sex marriage law in a referendum.

"As expressed in the [Human Rights Act], the established public policy of the District of Columbia is to treat individuals as equals, whatever their gender, sexual orientation, or marital status my be," Nickles said in his opinion.

Nickles said the D.C. City Council reflected the policy established in the Human Rights Act in the measure it passed May 5 authorizing city recognition of same-sex marriages from other states and countries.

"The effect of the proposed referendum, however, would be to negate that action," Nickles said in his opinion. "Therefore, the proposed measure is not a proper subject for a referendum under District law, and the proposer's petition should be denied."

Nickles' action places the city government in opposition to the proposed marriage referendum one day after the election board heard arguments over whether such a referendum is allowed under the city law governing initiatives and referenda.

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