The D.C. Council has given final approval to a new law that would redefine marriage for the District. The Council ignored pleas for a reasonable accommodation of the religious beliefs of groups like the Archdiocese of Washington, who would like to continue to provide social services in the District, but whose ability to do so is likely to be hampered by the new law.
Citizen groups can seek a referendum on the bill, but the District’s convoluted procedure for such efforts requires the two-member D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to approve a referendum and gives the Board the authority to reject it if they believe it conflicts with the D.C. Human Rights Act. Since the D.C. Court of Appeals has held that defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman does not violate the Act, a referendum ought to be allowed. The Board and the D.C. Superior Court have shown little interest, however, in applying the law, and instead seem bent on preventing any popular input on the Council’s experiment in social engineering. That leaves Congress’s oversight authority, which, given current political alignments, is a thin reed to lean on.