'The Armageddon of Marriage'; Bishop Leads the Battle against Same-Sex Unions

Article excerpt

Byline: Melissa Giaimo, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. grew up thinking everyone has a right to be heard and that the right to vote is a near-sacred privilege. The son of a civil rights activist who fled Florida with his family when a state trooper threatened his father at gunpoint, Mr. Jackson knows firsthand the struggles to be recognized in the democratic system.

But same-sex marriage, according to Mr. Jackson, is no civil right.

How dare someone piggyback on the civil rights movement? he said. What you really have is an elite group of people masquerading as a minority and systematically imposing their will on the majority.

And because he thinks he is among the majority in the District, he is committed to the fight to put same-sex marriage to a referendum after the D.C. Council last month passed legislation recognizing such unions performed in other jurisdictions.

The council wants to be represented, but they don't want the people they represent to have a voice, Mr. Jackson said.

Mr. Jackson, 56, a graduate of Williams College and Harvard Business School, is a longtime opponent of same-sex marriage. He has preached at his home parish, Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, and churches across the nation about the issue - including in Florida, Arizona and California, states that have held referendums on same-sex marriage.

But nowhere does he consider the fight against same-sex marriage more important than in the District - which he has called the Armageddon of marriage.

I think what will happen in D.C. will have an impact on national policy on marriage in a way that no other city or state will have had, he said.

Reflective of a trend in the black community, Mr. Jackson considers himself to be fiscally liberal and socially conservative. Although he is a registered Democrat, he said he has not been able to vote with the Democrats on many national issues. He has lived in the D.C. area since 1988, residing primarily in Maryland and - as of this year - in the District.

Three weeks after the council passed the same-sex-marriage bill - widely thought to be a precursor to another bill in the fall that would allow same-sex marriages to be performed in the District - Mr. Jackson led the effort to overturn it by referendum. The elections board rejected the proposed referendum on the bill on the basis that it would have violated the 1977 D.C. Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Last week, Mr. Jackson and six other petitioners filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court seeking to overturn the election board's decision to reject the referendum proposal.

A judge is now considering the petitioners' request to delay implementation of the council bill, which is set to go into effect early next month - the end of the required congressional review period.

A stay on legislation is vital for referendum proponents to gather more than 20,000 valid signatures - or 5 percent of the registered voters in the city - before the law takes effect.

Mr. Jackson said he will continue to fight same-sex marriage in the District, even if the judge denies the motion for a stay.

This is the first battle in a war - in a bigger skirmish, Mr. Jackson said. The other side determined that this is where it begins.

He vowed that he and his supporters will take further legal action when the council introduces the anticipated same-sex-marriage bill in the fall.

We do have a plan, and we're not going away, Mr. Jackson said.

Although the District argues that the proponents of the referendum do not deserve a stay because they waited three weeks to file a referendum, Mr. Jackson said he is proud of how fast his team responded.

You hit us by surprise, you circumvented the system, and one could argue that a 30-legislative-day response time, you've got to be mighty fast, he said. …