Another initiative supporter denies opposing same-sex marriage
I have not taken a position on gay marriage. I have taken the position that the definition of marriage is an important issue that should be decided by the public, and not imposed on the public by a council vote that the public is then forbidden to challenge. I believe that government officials are determined to impose that definition of marriage in DC. I am not sure what the result of a public vote would be, though I suspect that Massachusetts, which will have such a vote in November, and the District of Columbia are the two states whose voting public are most likely to support gay marriage. I am skeptical that the DC Human Rights Act determines that gay marriage is a civil right that cannot be addressed by an initiative or referendum (if it were, then the Human Rights Act in itself would have legalized gay marriages, and have made any redefinition of marriage superfluous). Nevertheless, it is obvious that the public in DC will be denied the right to vote on this issue.
Imhoff refuses to explain why only this issue, of all the issues on which the D.C. Council legislates, requires a direct vote of the people. His high degree of selectivity leaves little doubt that he opposes civil marriage equality for same-sex couples. The notion that one has no strong feelings on the subject while considering it absolutely essential to bypass the legislature and put the matter on the ballot makes no sense.
If you listen to some of the ministers leading the call for a ballot initiative on marriage, such as those in the Missionary Baptist Ministers' Conference of DC & Vicinity, you will learn that they still haven't accepted the equality of women, and they oppose women serving as ministers. They are entitled, of course, to believe whatever they like, but they are not entitled to impose their religious doctrine on the rest of us. Gary Imhoff is on the wrong side of the law, the wrong side of justice, and the wrong side of history.
Happily, Imhoff is right on one thing: the subject-matter restrictions on referenda and iniatiatives here in D.C., which were put in place 30 years ago at GLAA's urging, make it unlikely that this issue will reach the ballot. I say "happily" despite my confidence that the pro-gay side would win such a ballot fight, because such a fight would be expensive and nasty, and because it is wrong for a minority's rights to be subject to the whim of the majority. Our representative legislature has the opportunity to study and deliberate on matters before voting on them, and that works better. If you think that frequent plebiscites are a good idea, take a look at what a disaster this has been for California. If you think, no no, it is only marriage that requires a plebiscite, well, I'll see you at the Board of Elections and Ethics hearing on the proposed initiative (not yet scheduled).
One more comment: it is easy for Gary Imhoff to embrace the idea of having everyone vote on my right to marry my partner Patrick. His marriage to his wife Dorothy Brizill is not threatened. (Incidentally, he says, "Dorothy has not written anything about gay marriage," but she was at the Board of Elections hearing on the proposed referendum on marriage recognition a few months ago; I don't recall if she testified, but I watched her working with the anti-gay ministers. It was clear she was on their side.) For years now, gay people who seek equal protection of the law for their families have been accused on that account of seeking to destroy the family and society itself. For Imhoff to give comfort to this ongoing effort to demonize us, while denying that he is doing any such thing, is reprehensible. Yet he portrays himself as the victim. That is a standard play from the far right's playbook.
Fortunately, the signs are that Imhoff and his allies are in the minority. Ward 5 advisory neighborhood commissioner Bob King, for example, has gotten very little support for his call for a marriage initiative. Incidentally, if the proposed initiative passed muster at the Board of Elections and its backers moved on to the signature-gathering phase, you can be sure they would insist that it is not anti-gay at all, but just a consultation of the voters. The fact that its passage would harm gay couples well, how can you call that anti-gay? Please, stop insulting our intelligence.