Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

They’ve done it again. The DC Council is remaining true-to-form as they plan to allow notaries public to perform marriage ceremonies. They held a public hearing on the matter last Thursday as part of the process the district has to amend laws. It is ironic that just two days before the hearing, a group of DC residents (including myself) filed a cert petition to have the Supreme Court review our case which requested that district residents vote on marriage. So the city council is attempting to bring more radical change to our city before the dust has even settled on the controversial change in the definition of marriage in the district. The irony is heightened by the fact that GLAD is pushing for legalization of prostitution in the district because they feel that many openly gay teenagers are not accepted by their families and are forced into making a living on the streets of Washington, D.C. and other areas.

I voiced my concerns last Thursday at the hearing. Below, we have an excerpt of what I said to the DC Council:

Chairman Mendelson, Members of the Council, friends and fellow citizens…

First of all, I am writing to express my belief that empowering notaries public to perform weddings is ill-conceived and will create long term problems for both our citizens and the institution of marriage. Just six months after passing a controversial same-sex marriage law, it seems that we are unwisely rushing to create another sweeping change to the important institution of marriage…

Under the city’s current marriage law, civil officials and clergy are the two primary classifications of individuals authorized to officiate in these important ceremonies. Under this construct, as I understand it, civil marriages can only be performed by a judge or by a court-appointed person that typically performs marriages at the D.C. Superior Court.

Although the intent of the bill is to give people another option “that requires neither any kind of religious association and you don’t have to go to a courthouse[Melissa Millar legislative counsel to council member Mary Cheh of Ward 2]," it … could result in creating an atmosphere in which citizens enter into the depths of legal and personal commitment required by marriage, without giving the decision the reverence and solemnity it requires…

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

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.