DC ruling favors same-sex ‘marriage’ over religious freedom, archdiocese says

2 8 2010 capitol

A two-man Washington, D.C. panel has preferred to advance same-sex “marriage” 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 District’s human rights law.

Opponents of the D.C. City Council’s 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 Council’s efforts to “eradicate unlawful discrimination” and would violate the District’s Human Rights Act (HRA).

“The Civil Marriage Equality Act represents the Council’s 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,” 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 “extremely disappointing” that the two-person panel forbade the referendum without addressing religious liberty concerns.

“In short, the panel found a right for same-sex couples to marry by ignoring the right to religious liberty,” 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 “marriage.”

The HRA equally prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, but the marriage bill’s religious exemptions were “extraordinarily narrow,” the archdiocese said.

“Some 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.”

Though the HRA was “well-intentioned” in seeking to protect minorities from the prejudices of the majority, the archdiocese argued, it also permitted “paternalism” on the part of a few government officials who “believe they know better than their constituents what a human right is.”

“By elevating the advancement of same-sex marriage over the preservation of religious liberty, the law calls into question religion’s very place in society. And the city government’s restriction of the right of referendum legitimizes partisan paternalism under the guise of righteousness,” the archdiocese’s analysis concluded.

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