Last Tuesday, an early morning e-mail alert was sent to gay activists instructing them secure seats in the DC City Council chambers. They were aware that a group of local ministers were scheduled to attend the council proceedings. Our local coalition of ministers and churches was set to hear the final vote on a same-sex reciprocity bill which, if finally ratified, would allow marriages performed in other jurisdictions to be acknowledged in DC.
To my delight, coalition members filled the regular chambers and a large overflow room with observers. Also, I was fortunate enough to get a seat on the front row. Our goal was to put the council on notice that the sleeping giant had awakened. Even though the council had acted surreptitiously and would pass this bill, we were declaring by our presence that we were going to fight same-sex marriages originating in DC. In addition, we were stating that we would go to Capitol Hill - to Congress - to fight this reciprocity measure as well.
Many of the Capital’s leading pastors, spiritual fathers, had come to the chambers or to Freedom Plaza, just opposite City Hall. For three hours singers sang worship choruses and civil rights anthems. The singing and prayer were periodically punctuated by fiery preaching by pastors of several of the city’s largest and most respected churches. The outside rally concluded with a religious wedding ceremony, which I performed as a symbolic act celebrating the sanctity of marriage for both DC and the nation.
Despite the spiritual fervor being exhibited on Freedom Plaza, the mood of the city council was not quite as celebrative. They passed the measure despite our full-page ad in the local paper, our group’s numerous letters to the council, and direct meetings with the council members. They declared that gay marriage would someday be the law in DC because it was the will of the people, despite polling information we have to the contrary.
I was taken aback by the boldness of the council and their declaration. The voting process went according to schedule until former mayor Marion Barry asked for the matter to be discussed. In deference to the former mayor, an open discussion was held. Several openly gay council members attempted to paint themselves as victims of discrimination and numerous oppressive requirements. This discussion culminated with David Catania calling Marion Barry a “bigot” because Barry changed his mind about this bill.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
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