A D.C. Superior Court judge Thursday rejected gay marriage opponents efforts to hold a public referendum on whether those marriages should be legal in the District of Columbia.
The ruling is a major victory for gay rights activists, making it more likely that the District will start allowing same-sex couples to marry in March.
Plaintiffs led by a Maryland pastor, Bishop Harry Jackson, filed the lawsuit after the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics refused to put their initiative on the ballot.
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The measure would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman, but the board ruled it violated the city’s 1977 Human Rights Act.
Last week, 39 Republican congressmen filed a brief in support of Jackson’s appeal, arguing that the elections board overstepped its authority in denying a public vote on the matter.
But D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Macaluso disagreed, and ruled that the proposed ballot initiative would in fact violate D.C.’s Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“If enacted, the initiative would deprive only same-sex individuals of the legal status, rights and privileges they enjoy as married persons,” Judge Macaluso wrote.
The bill allowing same-sex marriage in D.C. was approved last month, and is currently up 30-day period of Congressional review. Congress could reject it, but Democratic leaders have suggested they are reluctant to do so.
Earlier this week, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he will introduce legislation aimed at getting the measure on the ballot, though passage seems unlikely.
If Congress decides to intervene, both the House and Senate chambers would need to oppose the bill, and a joint resolution would need to be signed by President Obama in order to nullify the measure.
Macaluso’s ruling can be viewed here.