Green Room

How to Win Fiends and Infuriate Voters

posted at 7:47 pm on November 18, 2009 by

The Washington D.C. City Council is poised to slap same-sex marriage (SSM) on the table in our nation’s capital, whether the citizens want it or not. And now, to add insult to penury, the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics [sic] has made its own contribution to democracy… it has rejected a traditional-marriage initiative from the ballot:

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics on Tuesday denied a petition to put a ballot initiative before city voters that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.

The decision came the same day the D.C. Council scheduled a Dec. 1 initial vote on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

The two-member elections board said it could not accept the Marriage Initiative of 2009, filed by the Stand4MarriageDC coalition, because it “authorizes discrimination prohibited under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act.” About 100 people testified during a hearing on the initiative last month.

“We have considered all of the testimony presented to the board and understand the desire to place this question on the ballot,” board Chairman Errol R. Arthur said. “However, the laws of the District of Columbia preclude us from allowing this initiative to move forward.”

Let’s put this in context: The Board has ruled that it cannot allow the citizens of D.C. to decide whether to ban SSM, because if they vote to do so — which they likely would — that would “violate” the very law it just replaced!

Now in most jurisdictions, if citizens enact a new law that supercedes an old one, then the superceded law is no longer operative. It is defunct. It has ceased to exist. It is an ex-law. If it wasn’t nailed to its perch, it would be pushing up daisies.

But evidently in D.C., laws passed by the Council abide forever and and a day; and they can never be overturned by the people, despite their supposed citizens’ initiative. New York is shortly to have “show-trials,” but Washington D.C. already has “show-votes.”

But of course, when the party in power* is so consistently, relentlessly, belligerently opposed to its own constituents, it’s no wonder they fear democracy almost as much as do the mullahs of Iran. As H.L. Mencken is reputed to have said — or written — or thought up — or wished he had thought up — “If the government can’t trust the people, why don’t they just dissolve them and elect a new people?”

I would not be shocked to discover the Board and the City Council right now poring over the lawbooks, trying to find some precedent to do exactly that.


* The thirteen-member Council of the District of Columbia comprises 11 Democrats — and 2 “independents.”

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

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