This past week, DC city council member Jack Evans vehemently warned DC citizens that if they took their concerns about marriage to Capitol Hill there would be grave “consequences.” Knowing that he and his colleagues have garnered the votes they need to pass a same-sex marriage law in DC, he thought that he would flex his political muscles. After repeating his threats in several different ways he summarized the essence of his warning, “Proceed at your own peril.”
What has Congress have to do with DC? The connection is that DC laws are in fact subject to approval by the US Congress. Evans’ comments exposed his concerns that a large number of complaints would come from DC residents, their families, and friends to both Republican and Democratic congressmen. He and his cronies do not want their plan for DC statehood to get derailed.
Most of the tax-paying citizens sitting in the audience could not believe their ears. District residents understand the paramount importance of the right to vote. It is a right for which we have struggled and fought. The District was formed in 1790, yet it was not until 170 years later that we could vote for the President of the United States. We voted in our first presidential election in 1964, helping to elect President Johnson. In 1968, we were given the right to vote for an elected Board of Education. In 1970, we were privileged to elect our first delegate to the US House of Representatives. In 1973, for the first time, we could vote for a mayor and a city council of our own. In 1978, we were given the power to approve and make laws through the referendum and initiative process.
Yet while we still are being denied a vote in the United States Congress, the council does not want the people to vote on same-sex marriage. Citizens have complained rightly at the injustice of being forced to pay taxes without being able to have a real congressional vote. Our license plates even go so far as to make a powerful declaration, “No taxation without representation.” Hypocritically, the DC city council appears poised to deny the people their rights. By keeping the District’s power primarily in their hands, the council is acting like the District is an oligarchy --- or even worse, a plantation with slaves.
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.