By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 2, 2009 ( – One might call it the “new ecumenism,” an example of solidarity between Christian denominations at its best: the Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C. has joined forces with local Christian ministers in the nation's capital to give strong support to a ballot initiative that would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and stop the legalization of same-sex “marriage” in the District of Columbia.

Bishop Harry Jackson of Beltsville's Hope Christian Church, fellow black Christian pastors, and members of the Stand4Marriage Coalition D.C., submitted a ballot initiative on Monday to preserve the traditional definition of marriage to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) for approval.

The initiative declares: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in the District of Columbia.”

Jackson and other black pastors in the federal district have led the charge from the outset against the D.C. City Council's plan to legalize same-sex “marriage” by incremental legislation. Now Catholic Archbishop Donald Wuerl has entered the fray, pledging the active support of the Catholic Church in D.C. to advance the marriage initiative.

The Catholic Archbishop released a letter to the 300 Catholic priests of the Archdiocese emphasizing the importance of marriage and defending against attempts to redefine the institution.

“One challenge we see today is a lack of understanding by many people about what marriage is,” Wuerl said in a statement released by the Archdiocese. “Marriage simply recognizes a relationship that is fundamental to nature: the complementarity of man and woman. That relationship is not a creation of church or civil law.”

Wuerl added that “governments and faith groups recognize marriage as between a man and woman because the exclusive, mutual and lifelong gift of a husband and wife to each other is the most stable and secure foundation to create and nurture children.”

D.C. Catholic Conference confirms that Wuerl sent a letter to the BOEE affirming the Catholic Church's support of the “Marriage Initiative of 2009.”

“It is ironic that at the same time the city is asking for voting representation in the U.S. Congress, its leaders are denying residents the opportunity to participate in the democratic process for an issue with widespread implications for children and families,” said Ronald Jackson, executive director of the D.C. Catholic Conference.

Whether or not the marriage initiative goes on the ballot in November now depends on the approval of the BOEE. However, elections officials in June quashed an earlier request by Bishop Jackson and the Stand for Marriage D.C. coalition. That request was to hold a referendum on the D.C. Council's passing of legislation that recognizes same-sex “marriages” from outside the federal district. The BOEE said that the referendum would have violated the D.C. Human Rights Act.

Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin upheld the BOEE's decision to forbid the referendum on the grounds that it did not constitute a “proper subject” for referendum under the HRA. However, Retchin indicated that D.C. could still use the initiative process to repeal a law, although both sides of the marriage debate point out that the HRA still applies to the initiative process.

But denying D.C. residents the right to vote on the definition of marriage will not sit well with pro-marriage advocates, who say that denying them a vote on this fundamental transformation of society is denying them democracy.

According to the Washington Post, after filing the papers with the BOEE, Jackson and his fellow members of the Stand4MarriageDC coalition stood in Judiciary Square chanting, “let the people vote.”

See related coverage by

Judge Puts Kibosh on DC Gay “Marriage” Referendum

D.C. Ethics Board Rejects Referendum on Homosexual “Marriage” Advocated by Black Pastors

Washington DC Approves Same-Sex “Marriage” Recognition


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