McCoy testimony against proposed referendum
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McCoy testimony against proposed referendum

Testimony of Nicholas McCoy
before the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics
regarding:
“Referendum Concerning the Jury and Marriage Amendment Act of 2009”
One Judiciary Square
June 10, 2009


Good morning. I am Nicholas McCoy, a Washington resident. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

DC Human Rights Act

According to DC regulation, legislation may not be placed on a ballot for referendum that is in conflict with the Human Rights Act of the District of Columbia.

Enacted in 1977 and amended in 2007, the DC Human Rights Act attempts to end discrimination in the District of Columbia on a number of bases including sexual orientation. The act includes the language “every individual shall have an equal opportunity to participate fully in the economic, cultural and intellectual life of the District and to have an equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of life.” It is also discriminatory practice under the Human Rights Act for the government of the District of Columbia to refuse benefits or services on the basis of sexual orientation.

Accommodation for religious observance

There are extensive protections in the Act for religious observance. In other states anti-marriage equality advocates have used this as the basis of arguments against the legalization of same sex marriage. HOWEVER, marriage equality advocates are NOT lobbying to force religious institutions to give up their rights — they are lobbying for equal rights in LEGAL or CIVIL marriage. Same sex religious marriage is for individual religious organizations to decide.

It is clear that the introduction of the Jury and Marriage Amendment Act of 2009 by the D.C. Council was meant to further the means by which a citizen may enjoy the protections afforded them by the Human Rights Act to participate in all aspects of life.

It is absurd to believe that the rights of any minority group should be put to vote for any majority to decide! How can anyone else speak to my feeling of being discriminated against? I have had the opportunity to testify before the Congressional Black Caucus on racial profiling within the LGBT community. At that hearing I was called to answer a very tough question, one of the toughest questions I have ever been asked. A congressman asked which did I consider myself first — Black or gay? I responded that life had not given me an opportunity to choose between the two, but GOD had given me the strength to live out my life as a Black gay man to the best of my ability.

The directional compass of the D.C. Council has been to move toward a shore where discrimination is not part of the landscape. It is not this Board’s responsibility to introduce or amend legislation. It is the mission of the this Board to ensure that there are no matters afforded any agency, group or person that could or will cause a conflict between the Human Rights Act of the District of Columbia and any electoral procedures. To that end I call upon you to make a swift, impartial decision based on the facts before you to emphatically deny any request for Referendum on the Jury and Marriage Amendment Act of 2009.

Thank you.


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