Religion in Society

D.C. City Council to Decide Gay Marriage-Residents Demand Vote

| by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON -- Citizens of America's capital rallied Sunday in an effort to persuade the District of Columbia government to permit them to vote on the legalization "of same-sex marriage."

The outdoor rally, led by area pastors, was held the day before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics conducted a hearing on whether a proposal to legalize "gay marriage" should be placed on the ballot for district voters. On Monday a committee of the D.C. Council held the first part of a two-day hearing on a bill to legalize "gay marriage." Ten of the council's 13 members are sponsoring the proposal, which would not provide for a vote by D.C. citizens.

"We are in a David-and-Goliath situation," said Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and chairman of Stand for Marriage D.C. "The city council is out of control, but I believe that if we humble ourselves and pray, God is going to make a miracle among us."

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined in the effort. A letter from ERLC President Richard Land to 165 Southern Baptist pastors in the D.C. area warned them of the pending legislation and encouraged them to attend the rally. Barrett Duke, the ERLC's vice president for public policy, spoke to rally participants.

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"I think this is such an important issue that the city council should allow the entire populous of the District of Columbia to vote on this," Duke told Baptist Press at the Oct. 25 rally. "My hopes are that the people of the District of Columbia will be able to preserve God's definition of marriage for" D.C.

In his letter, Land told the pastors the D.C. council sponsors of the bill are "seeking to redefine marriage for everyone in the District by usurping the judgment of the city's 600,000 people. They are seeking to accomplish this by silencing the citizens whose very voice they were elected to amplify."

At the rally, people shouted, "Let the people vote," as they held up signs with messages such as: "Should 13 council members decide the fate of marriage in our nation's capital?"

Hester Campbell, 70, a resident of Washington, D.C., for 51 years, traveled alone by bus to attend the rally.

"I don't like not being able to vote. We have the right to vote," Campbell told BP. "I have to speak out...."

The event drew religious leaders such as Michael Kelsey of New Samaritan Baptist Church and political figures such as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Robert King as speakers.

People in 30 states have voted on the issue of "gay marriage," Kelsey told rally participants. D.C. is no different than the other states in that it has the same privilege and responsibility of voting, he said.

King said, "No public policy is excluded. It is simply wrong for us officials to deny a citizen's right."

Despite the decisions the D.C. council has made so far, the Bible says Christians are to pray that God would give government authorities wisdom, said Nestor Alvarado, pastor of Iglesia de Cristo Ministerios Elim, a Silver Springs, Md., church.

Enough district residents requested to speak at the Oct. 26 hearing of the D.C. Council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary that a second date was scheduled. There were 100 witnesses set to appear before the committee Oct. 26, leaving 170 waiting to speak at the second part of the hearing Nov. 2, a council spokesman said.