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Because you never know what 'right' he will seek next

by Jeremy Hooper

The Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg testified yesterday in front of the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics, attempting to justify the "right" to rollback a fundamental civil right via majority tyranny. We have now reprinted Sprigg's words, in full, with just a few minor editorial additions for the sake of background and insight. Enjoy:

Testimony by Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies
Family Research Council, 801 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
In support of "A Referendum on the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality
Amendment Act of 2009"
District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics
January 27, 2010

I urge you to permit a referendum on Bill 18-482, the so-called "Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009."

The citizens of the District of Columbia have a right to pass judgment on the decisions of their elected officials through the referendum process. There is no good reason why that core democratic right should be infringed upon with respect to this bill.

I realize that supporters of this bill argue that fundamental human rights guaranteed by the D.C. Human Rights Act cannot be repealed by a vote of the people. However, the Council's bill redefining marriage was not adopted as a part of the Human Rights Act of 1977; the bill itself states clearly that it amends the District's code of 1901. Therefore, repeal of this bill by referendum would work no alteration in the provisions of the Human Rights Act.

This straightforward conclusion is supported by the fact that the Human Rights Act makes no reference to the definition of marriage, and issues of marriage and domestic relations have never been interpreted as coming under its scope. The text of the Human Rights Act says that its purpose is to insure equality "in employment, in places of public accommodation, resort or amusement, in educational institutions, in public service, and in housing and commercial space accommodations." None of those categories logically include the definition of marriage.

Some would perhaps argue that the issuance of marriage licenses would be covered by the Human Rights Act's prohibition of discrimination by the District government itself in the issuance of licenses, services, or benefits. However, the theory that denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of the Human Rights Act is a theory that has not governed the behavior of any DC public official in the entire 32 years between the adoption of the Human Rights Act in 1977 and the adoption of Bill 18-482 in 2009. Indeed this argument was explicitly rejected by the courts in the 1995 case of Dean v. District of Columbia.

Furthermore, let us consider the implications of applying the Human Rights Act in a literal way to the issuance of marriage licenses. One of the protected categories in the Human Rights Act, in addition to "sexual orientation," is "familial status." Presumably this includes marital status. But if we cannot discriminate on the basis of marital status in the issuance of marriage licenses, that would suggest that we cannot limit the issuance of marriage licenses to people who are currently unmarried. If people who are currently married have an equal right to a marriage license, then the implication is that the Human Rights Act requires recognition of polygamy. Such an interpretation is absurd, of course--but the idea that the Human Rights Act requires recognition of same-sex marriage is equally absurd.

It seems clear that the Human Rights Act was never intended to apply, and cannot logically be construed to apply, to the definition of marriage. However, even if it did, I would point out that strictly speaking, defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman does not "discriminate" on the basis of "sexual orientation" at all. Marriage license applications do not inquire as to the "sexual orientation" of the parties. Every individual adult in the District of Columbia, without exception, already has a right to marry. But everyone also has restrictions upon whom they may marry-again, without exception. No one is permitted to marry a child, a close blood relative, a person who is already married, or, in most nations of the world and most states in this nation, a person of the same sex. These restrictions apply equally to everyone-there is no "discrimination" involved.

Many people who now identify as "gay" or "lesbian" have already been married, quite legally--to members of the opposite sex. On the other hand, many who once identified as "gay" or "lesbian" have since abandoned that identity, overcome their same-sex attractions, and are currently married, legally, to members of the opposite sex. The reality is that so-called "sexual orientation" is a concept that is far too fluid to constitute a permanent barrier to participation in the institution of marriage.

The reason marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman is not because of invidious discrimination against homosexuals. The public purpose of marriage is to bring together men and women for the purpose of reproducing the human race and keeping a mother and father together to cooperate in raising to maturity the children they produce. Because same-sex unions never serve this purpose, there is no logical reason to place them under the umbrella of "marriage." The fact that homosexuals are uninterested in the type of relationship that society, quite rationally, encourages through marriage does not mean that homosexuals have been wronged. In a sense, it is homosexuals who discriminate against marriage, not marriage that discriminates against homosexuals.

Finally, I would note that even if you believe that the historic and natural definition of marriage as the union of man and woman "discriminates" on the basis of "sexual orientation" (as I have argued it does not), that still is not sufficient reason to bar a referendum on this issue. Same-sex "marriage" is not a longstanding right under the Human Rights Act, but a complete novelty being pressed upon the District by the Council. A successful referendum would not roll back any rights previously recognized under the Human Rights Act. It would, instead, maintain the status quo that has prevailed under the Human Rights Act for 32 years. To say that the people have no right to thus maintain the status quo would be a bizarre catch-22 that makes a mockery of democracy.

I urge you to allow a referendum on Bill 18-482.
Testimony [FRC]

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Your thoughts

What does this mean?

"The reality is that so-called 'sexual orientation' is a concept that is far too fluid to constitute a permanent barrier to participation in the institution of marriage."

It sounds like he's making his opposition's case here. Am I misreading?

Posted by: Brian | Jan 28, 2010 8:34:16 AM

You have to speak social conservative, Brian. He's saying that since gays can "change" and become "heterosexual," then they are not really barred from "traditional marriage."

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jan 28, 2010 8:39:45 AM

"Every individual adult in the District of Columbia, without exception, already has a right to marry."


When I, a law-abiding tax-payer lived in the District of Columbia, I did NOT have the right to marry any woman, because I'm an immigrant (sham marriages are punishable by deportation, no re-entry to the US for 5 years, and the American partner also faces fraud charges). Anyone who's spent just a day in DC and has heard the cacophony of languages will know that the District is full-to-breaking with immigrants.

OK, Peter Sprigg might argue, I don't have the right to marry anyone because I'm an immigrant - I also don't have the right to vote. Accepting his flawed reasoning for a moment, let's remember that my American partner is being denied the right to marry an immigrant who he loves, unlike his straight counterparts.

And by the way, Mr. Sprigg, because of DC's marriage equality, I will be moving *back* to settle down, after four years of forced separation from my partner.

Posted by: DN | Jan 28, 2010 10:51:58 AM

I'm sorry, did he actually say "gays discriminate against marriage"?

You gotta love this stuff. Seriously. The batsh---ery logic they use seems to help our side more and more each day.

Posted by: stojef | Jan 28, 2010 5:12:10 PM

eeee-ya a a, ee ya a a, ee ya a a

Right, and Mildred Loving (God rest her and Richard) had every right to get married too, to a black man.
But it wasn't a black man that wanted to marry HER.

By Sprigg's logic (tortured beyond recognition that it is) says that gay people are not discriminated against because they can marry the opposite sex. It's just that it's not the opposite sex that WANTS to marry them, and marriage to the opposite sex IS discriminatory against those not attracted to it.

AND he throws in that non procreation is a rational basis for discrimination too.

Posted by: Regan DuCasse | Jan 28, 2010 5:52:42 PM

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