WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land has joined two dozen other Christian and conservative leaders in urging Congress to pass legislation requiring a public vote before the District of Columbia issues marriage licenses to homosexual couples.
The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the others called on senators and representatives quickly to approve the District of Columbia Referendum on Marriage Act. The D.C. government is slated to begin giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples in March, which could be as early as next week.
Sen. Robert Bennett, R.-Utah, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R.-Utah, introduced the legislation in their respective chambers earlier this year, but no action has been taken so far. It appears unlikely Congress, which has 30 business days to review the new D.C. law, will overturn the district government’s December approval of “same-sex marriage.”
Opponents of homosexual marriage in D.C. attempted to place an initiative on the ballot to bar “same-sex marriage.” The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics rejected that effort in November. Later, the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of eight D.C. citizens calling for approval of an attempt to place the measure on the ballot.
“We not only encourage you to act on behalf of the people in the District, but we also urge you to act on behalf of those we represent in all fifty states…. The people whom we represent expect each member of the Senate [and House of Representatives] to take action to permit the people in the District of Columbia the opportunity to vote by referendum on this most important issue of marriage,” Land and the others wrote in the Feb. 22 letter.
The bills, which are S. 2980 in the Senate and H.R. 4430 in the House, both bar the D.C. government from issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples “until the people of the District of Columbia have the opportunity to hold a referendum or initiative on the question of whether the District of Columbia should issue same-sex marriage licenses.”
Unless Congress or a judge prevents the D.C. law from taking effect, the district will become the sixth U.S. jurisdiction to permit “homosexual marriages.”
Five states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont — recognize “gay marriage.” In none of those states, however, have voters approved the unions in a ballot initiative. All 31 states that have held ballot initiatives on the question of “same-sex marriage” have affirmed the traditional view of the institution.
The bill’s opponents, though, say the legislation will harm the institution of marriage, as well as families and society. They also are concerned it will not provide enough protection for the expression of religious belief by those who oppose “gay marriage.”
In addition to Land, other signers of the letter to Congress included Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Penny Nance, chief executive officer of Concerned Women for America; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Harry Jackson, a D.C.-area pastor; Phyllis Schlafly, president of Eagle Forum; Gary Bauer, president of American Values, and Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association.
Land sent a Feb. 23 letter to Bennett and Chaffetz thanking them for introducing their bills.
Before deciding to legalize “same-sex marriage,” the D.C. Council voted 12-1 in May to recognize “same-sex marriages” performed in other jurisdictions.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.