.- A two-man Washington, D.C. panel has preferred to advance same-sex âmarriageâ at the cost of religious liberty, the Archdiocese of Washington has charged. The panel ruled that a referendum on a city council bill recognizing same-sex marriage would violate the Districtâs human rights law.
Opponents of the D.C. City Councilâs decision, including the archdiocese, have sought a referendum to try to overturn the action.
However, two members of the Board of Elections and Ethics ruled the referendum would thwart the Councilâs efforts to âeradicate unlawful discriminationâ and would violate the Districtâs Human Rights Act (HRA).
âThe Civil Marriage Equality Act represents the Councilâs effort to eliminate the discriminatory exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of marriage on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. The Referendum seeks to frustrate this effort, and would, if successful, have the effect of authorizing discrimination in contravention of the HRA,â the board stated.
The ruling was issued by Errol R. Arthur, Chairman of the Board of Elections and Ethics, and board member Charles R. Lowery, Jr.
The Archdiocese of Washington in a Friday statement said it was âextremely disappointingâ that the two-person panel forbade the referendum without addressing religious liberty concerns.
âIn short, the panel found a right for same-sex couples to marry by ignoring the right to religious liberty,â charged the archdiocese.
The archdiocese issued an analysis saying that the board did not properly address the lack of adequate religious liberty protection in the bill that recognized same-sex âmarriage.â
The HRA equally prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, but the marriage billâs religious exemptions were âextraordinarily narrow,â the archdiocese said.
âSome advocates for same-sex marriage even proposed that religious organizations simply stop activities that would place their rights in conflict with the new law. In other words, that religious organizations and individuals withdraw from the public sphere despite centuries of legal precedent in favor of respect for religious liberty.â
Though the HRA was âwell-intentionedâ in seeking to protect minorities from the prejudices of the majority, the archdiocese argued, it also permitted âpaternalismâ on the part of a few government officials who âbelieve they know better than their constituents what a human right is.â
âBy elevating the advancement of same-sex marriage over the preservation of religious liberty, the law calls into question religionâs very place in society. And the city governmentâs restriction of the right of referendum legitimizes partisan paternalism under the guise of righteousness,â the archdioceseâs analysis concluded.