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.
Catania purposely used the phrase “marriage equality” instead of same-sex marriage. It seems that this phrase must play better with focus groups and people who are contemplating the merits of gay marriage. Nowhere in the discussion of the council members on Tuesday was any mention made of the fact that same-sex marriage changes the definition of family, parenting, and education in our city in one fell swoop. Future concepts of family, marriage, and sex will be communicated differently because of such legislation. Neither was it mentioned that books like the Prince and the Prince, Heather has Two Mommies, or similar works will eventually be required reading for 8 year olds in the District. Imagine what sex education classes will have include in order prepare teenagers for “responsible entry” into the adult world.
Nothing was said about the devaluation of marriage that has happened in every nation where same-sex unions have received comparable status to heterosexual marriage. According to the work of Harvard trained Dr. Stanley Kurtz and others, rapid destabilization of the entire institution of marriage has been an unintended consequence of recognizing same-sex marriages.
Instead this type of meaningful conversation, Councilman Catania resorted to name calling when he declared that Marion Barry was a “bigot.” To Barry’s credit, the civil rights warhorse repudiated and rejected the “bigot” label. Councilman Catania quickly apologized. Instead, he implied that bigotry is the only reason that explains why thinking Americans oppose same-sex marriage. On the heels of this encounter, another council member began to describe my community pastors as “mean-spirited” and “intimidated.”
The next steps in Washington, DC are simple - we must raise awareness in Congress that they can veto this bill. Further, Christians must begin to alert both Democratic and Republican congressmen about the need to vote against such measures. An immediate response from our supporters is very necessary.
Consider the following steps of action:
1. I am calling for a lobbying day in just 10 days in Washington, DC (May 20-22). We will bring over 300 ministers to DC for three days of inspiration, information, and impartation. This group will take time to lobby on the Hill and conduct prayer vigils in the city.
2. I am asking that every pastor and ministry leader notify their US Senators and Representatives that we are expecting them to veto this bill.
3. Finally, I am every American who understands the importance of protecting traditional marriage to pray every day for the legislators to realize the negative impact same-sex marriage legislation will have on our society.
The time to act is now. Let’s not be caught sleeping on our watch!
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.