Rosendall testifies for GLAA against proposed initiative
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Rosendall testifies for GLAA against proposed initiative

Testimony of Rick Rosendall
Vice President for Political Affairs
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.
Hearing of the D.C. Board of Election and Ethics

Regarding whether the proposed initiative measure entitled
“Marriage Initiative of 2009”
is a proper subject for initiative in the District of Columbia

Monday, October 26, 2009, 10:00 AM
One Judiciary Square, First Floor, Old Council Chambers

Good morning. I am Rick Rosendall. I live at 1414 17th Street, NW. I am a second generation native Washingtonian. I am Vice President for Political Affairs of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, and I speak for them.

Contrary to claims by our opponents, the civil institution of marriage has changed prior to the gay community knocking on its door. Specifically, it was changed to recognize the equal status of women. The evolution of civil marriage is part of our nation’s ongoing struggle to live out the true meaning of its creed.

Our opponents have cited the Dean case from the 1990s. First, unlike 15 years ago, there are legal same-sex marriages in several states and in several countries. Second, the legislative intent has changed. References to “husband” and “wife” in various parts of the D.C. Code have been changed to the gender-neutral “spouse,” and references to “father” and “mother” to “parent.” This year the Council passed a law recognizing same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. Finally, ten Council members on October 6 co-introduced the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, and an eleventh member has pledged to vote for it.

The city recognized the danger of subjecting minority protections to a plebiscite thirty years ago when, at our behest, it barred any referendum or initiative that “authorizes, or would have the effect of authorizing, discrimination prohibited under Chapter 14 of Title 2....” Authorizing discrimination against gay people is precisely the purpose of the proposed Initiative, which is why the Board should refuse to accept it.

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles wrote to Mr. McGhie on October 5, “The District currently recognizes same-sex marriages validly performed and recognized in other jurisdictions. This recognition reflects the District’s commitment to the principle of comity in recognizing marriages validly performed and recognized in other states, as well the District’s commitment to equality, as expressed in the District’s Human Rights Act. The proposed Initiative seeks to prohibit the District from continuing to recognize these same-sex marriages. Guided by the principles of comity, equality, and the recent Jackson v. District of Columbia Bd. of Elections and Ethics case, I find that the proposed Initiative is not a proper subject for initiative under District law, as it discriminates, or has the effect of discriminating, in contravention of the Human Rights Act.”

Bishop Jackson routinely talks as if he has a monopoly on faith. In fact, more than 250 D.C. clergy have signed a statement supporting marriage equality. The pending legislation, Bill 18-482, makes it explicitly clear that we are not proposing to infringe religious liberties. We are talking about the civil law and civil marriage.

The Initiative’s proponents in the past have cited junk science to support their fear-mongering allegations that children are harmed by being raised by gay parents. I have included references in my written testimony to articles refuting these slanders. In any case, there has been legal adoption by same-sex couples in D.C. since 1995, something this Initiative would not change.

Marriage is recognized in Loving and other cases as a fundamental human right. This Initiative would prevent me from marrying the person I love. That is discriminatory under D.C. law, and the Board should therefore reject the Initiative.

Thank you.


1.      Gary J. Gates, M.V. Lee Badgett, Kate Chambers, and Jennifer Macomber, “Adoption and Foster Care by Gay and Lesbian Parents in the United States,” March 2007,

2.      Douglas NeJaime, Jurist Legal News and Research - University of Pittsburgh School of Law, "Scare Tactics: Children in the Battle Over Same-Sex Marriage in California," October 28, 2008,

3.      Brad Sears and Alan Hirsch, Edmonton Journal (Alberta), "No harm done to children of gay marriages: U.S. studies consistently dispute claims of opponents," April 10, 2004,

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