In May 2009 the District of Columbia City Council passed legislation to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the city. When Councilmember Marion Barry opposed that legislation, fellow councilmember David Catania called Barry’s position “bigoted.”

Today the D.C. Court of Appeals, which is the District’s version of a state supreme court, endorsed the idea that support for marriage as the union of husband and wife is a form of bigotry and discrimination.

In an opinion issued this morning, the D.C. Court of appeals rejected an appeal brought by Bishop Harry Jackson and others that sought to recognize the right of D.C. voters to vote on marriage.

In September 2009, Bishop Jackson and others filed a proposed marriage initiative with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics that would have given voters the opportunity to support the position that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the District of Columbia.”

The movement to protect the right of D.C. voters to vote on marriage became more urgent after the D.C. Council passed a second piece of legislation in December 2009 that, instead of merely recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, authorized the recognition of same-sex ceremonies conducted in the District itself.

However, D.C. residents wishing to vote on marriage were quickly thwarted by the unelected bureaucrats who sit on the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, who ruled that the pro-marriage initiative could not proceed because it would authorize or have the effect of authorizing “discrimination” in violation of D.C.’s Human Rights Act.

Today the D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed that conclusion. The court wrote that it had “no difficulty” concluding that Bishop Jackson’s marriage initiative would authorize or have the effect of authorizing “discrimination” in violation of the act. The dissenting judges, including the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals, expressed the stark concern that excluding the subject of marriage from the people’s right of initiative could lead to additional limitations of that right in the future.

This opinion follows closely on a federal court decision issued in Massachusetts last week that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for purposes of federal law. According to the judge in that case, only “irrational prejudice” and “animus” could have motivated the pro-marriage law.

Suggestions that only “irrational prejudice” could motivate support for marriage reinforces the concern held by many people that same-sex marriage threatens religious liberty. Arguments for same-sex marriage are often based on the idea that defining marriage as the union of husband and wife is a form of bigotry, irrational prejudice, and even hatred against homosexual persons. As this ideology seeps into the culture more generally—reinforced by judges and lawmakers declaring support for marriage to be a form of irrational discrimination—individuals and institutions that support marriage as the union of husband and wife risk paying a price for that belief in many legal, social, economic, and cultural contexts.

More fundamentally, however, court rulings that impose same-sex marriage alter marriage’s “core meaning, for to redefine marriage so that it is not intrinsically related to the relationship between fathers, mothers, and children would sever the institution from its nature and purpose” . It is imperative for the American people, at every level of government and in every way necessary, to redouble their efforts in defense of the institution of marriage.