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January 20, 2010
Column #1,482
"Let The People Vote"
By Mike McManus

Having lost battles with the Washington D.C City Council, Election Board and lower court levels over same-sex marriage, Bishop Harry Jackson has thrown a Hail Mary pass by asking Congress to veto the city's law, and allow Washington's residents to have a referendum.

"Let the people vote!" he pled.

"If the recent DC same sex-marriage law is allowed to stand, people all around the nation will ask, `Why did Congress allow the city to violate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)?'"

Congress passed DOMA by overwhelming votes of 85-14 in the Senate and 342-67 in the House. President Clinton signed it just before the 1996 election. DOMA blocks granting Social Security benefits to same-sex partners, and protects any state from having to recognize gay "marriages" that might be approved by another state.

However, it is rare for Congress to veto a law passed by the D.C. City Council. On the other hand, 31 states have passed Constitutional amendments to limit marriage to one man and one woman, most recently in Maine where a state law was overturned.

At a recent rally with scores of African-American pastors, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said, "There are values that we adhere to and cherish in this country, and one of them is traditional marriage. I am excited to put my name behind the District of Columbia Referendum on Marriage Act of 2010.  I believe strongly that the people of Washington DC should be given the right to vote on this most important issue."

He predicted that Washingtonians would vote the way they did in 31 states. "Thirty-one times in a row, when this issue was before voters in states across this country, traditional marriage has won…I think there is a reason why folks in certain points of power don't want to see a vote, because they know traditional marriage would win."

In his letter to 435 Members of Congress and 100 Senators, Bishop Jackson said he is gathering the signatures of 1,000 clergy, and argued passionately, "Our elected officials have vehemently opposed the people's rights. Therefore, we ask that you consider the counsel of the seasoned ministers and community leaders who write to you as moral and cultural watchmen."

He noted that many claim that "allowing gays to marry will have no impact on traditional marriage.  They are wrong; it will have a profound impact.  It will create a conflict between people of faith who fervently believe in traditional marriage and the law, which says that marriage includes those of the same-sex variety. These conflicts will always be resolved in favor of same-sex marriage because there can be no `conscientious objectors' to the law."

In an interview, he illustrated by noting that the law would permit gays to adopt children, even though most experts agree that they are best reared by a married mother and father. Five-year-olds would be read the book, "Heather Has Two Mommies." 

Bishop Jackson moved from suburban Prince Georges County to Washington to lead this fight at considerable disruption of his personal life.  His Hope Baptist Church remains in the suburbs, where more black people live than in the District. (Disclosure: he is a member of my Marriage Savers Board.)

I asked him why he has invested so much energy in this issue, as to disrupt his personal life. He noted that when the issue was on the ballot in 2008 in Florida, he made 13 visits to the state to speak for a similar Constitutional Amendment, plus a number of trips to California, to fight for passage of Proposition 8  As a Democrat, he urged people to vote for Obama as President, but in support of Prop 8 backed primarily by conservatives.

"Now that the issue is on my shores, I did not see how I could just sit back and say, "`Someone else should lead this.  The other side put on a media blackout. The Missionary Baptists, representing 400 churches, could not get a letter published in The Washington Post."

In prayer he asked God for some sign as to whether he should take on the issue, which he knew would be expensive, costing perhaps $500,000.  Two days later, a tenth of that amount was given in a single gift to his Stand4Marriage Coalition.

That gave him the assurance that he would not have to finance the spiritual battle "with the money of Harry Jackson, but am working with the Lord's funding."

The readers of this column could take two steps that would be of help: write to your Congressman and your Senators.

Don't be just a reader of these words, but a doer!

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