WASHINGTON — Alliance Defense Fund and Stand4MarriageDC attorneys filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday asking the justices to weigh in on the right of District of Columbia residents to vote on the legal definition of marriage. The petition appeals a narrow 5–4 ruling by the D.C. Court of Appeals in July which said the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics was within its rights to block residents from voting on the matter, despite a requirement by the D.C. Charter that they be allowed to do so.
The charter, which serves as a constitution for the district, guarantees citizens a broad right to initiate and vote on legislation, except for “laws appropriating funds” and other things that the D.C. Council itself cannot do. It is undisputed that the Marriage Initiative of 2009 did not seek to appropriate funds. ADF and Stand4MarriageDC attorneys represent Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr.; Del. Walter E. Fauntroy; and other registered voters. A press conference will be held at 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday in Room HVC-201 of the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington.
“In America, we respect the right to vote. That right is explicitly protected by the D.C. Charter, but so far, that hasn’t stopped the government from suppressing the voice of D.C. citizens,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks. “The decision from the D.C. Court of Appeals means that those living in our nation’s capitol are being denied the right to vote, and we hope the Supreme Court will restore this guaranteed right in the district. The four dissenting judges were correct that the D.C. Council ‘exceeded its authority’ when it imposed an unwarranted limitation on the citizens’ right to vote.”
“There is no reason to prevent the good people of the District of Columbia from having a say on this matter, as is their right,” said Jackson. “Anyone looking at this case needs to ask themselves what our political leaders have to fear from allowing the people to be heard on such a basic matter as marriage.”
On Sept. 1, 2009, Jackson, Fauntroy, and other D.C. registered voters filed the Marriage Initiative of 2009. The initiative provides that “[o]nly marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the District of Columbia.” The initiative was to be placed on the ballot for district voters to express their views either for or against the initiative, but on Nov. 17, 2009, the D.C. Board of Elections rejected the initiative, saying it was improper and discriminatory. ADF and Stand4MarriageDC attorneys representing initiative proponents filed a lawsuit, Jackson v. District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics (known as Jackson II), with the D.C. Superior Court contesting that decision the next day.
ADF attorneys also represented district voters in a separate lawsuit, Jackson v. District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics (known as Jackson III), regarding whether the voters should have a say via referendum on the district’s separate marriage redefinition law. In that case, ADF attorneys asked U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., to issue an emergency stay. Although he did not grant a stay, he commented that the voters’ arguments “have some force.” The Supreme Court is now being asked to address the substance of the voters’ arguments on their right to vote.
A Washington Post poll earlier this year showed that 59 percent of adult D.C. residents believe voters should be allowed to vote “yes” or “no” on the definition of marriage in the district.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.