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Tuesday, 23 February 2010 00:59

Gay Marriage Checkmates Bishop in D.C.: Bill Berkowitz for BuzzFlash.com

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Bishop Harry Jackson, a full-time fighter against gay equality, has raised a fair amount of money from national Christian conservative organizations to combat same-sex marriage in Washington, D.C.   

Over the past few years, Bishop Harry Jackson has been more than a trusted ally of the Religious Right. As an indefatigable fighter against equality for gays and lesbians, he’s gone well beyond the call of duty. These days, from his church headquarters in Beltsville, Maryland, Jackson has led a coalition of mostly African American religious leaders in a major battle over same-sex marriage with the District of Columbia’s City Council.

On Dec. 19, Washington, D.C. officially legalized same-sex marriage by a D.C. Council vote of 11-2.

According to the Metro Weekly’s Richard J. Rosendall, “Beginning at 8:30 a.m. on or about March 3, same-sex couples will be able to go to Room 4485 at D.C. Superior Court at 500 Indiana Ave., pay their $45 fee, and apply for a marriage license. You have to wait three full days before receiving the license, and if you want to schedule a civil wedding you must inform the deputy clerk and wait at least 10 days.”

Case closed? Probably.

But that hasn’t stopped Jackson.

After having lost the battle over the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, Jackson has taken another tack. He’s demanding that the good folks living in the District of Columbia get an opportunity to vote on the issue. Jackson wants a Proposition 8 (California) for D.C.-ites. 

Although he's failed three times to get a ballot measure past the Board of Elections and Ethics, Jackson won't quit,” Rosendall recently reported. In a TownHall.com column dated Feb. 8, Jackson wrote that “Despite the [D.C.] council and [D.C. Delegate to Congress] Eleanor Holmes Norton's wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, the cry, 'Let the People Vote!' has reached the ears of many on the Hill.''

One of those on the Hill is Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who in late January introduced legislation in the House to repeal D.C.’s gay marriage law. Jackson has alsop managed to get nine of the senates most conservative members to carry a similar bill in that chamber. However, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) “issued a statement Wednesday evening saying she has received assurance from House Democratic leaders that the House will not even vote on Chaffetz's resolution,” the Washington Post reported.

Jackson’s group, Stand for Marriage DC, has raised a fair amount of money, mostly from outside the D.C. area. According to a DC Agenda report, “Two religious groups linked to … Jackson’s church … have provided more than $102,000 in contributions to his campaign to ban same-sex marriage in D.C. Contributions from the High Impact Leadership Coalition and Christian Hope Ministries-High Impact comprise slightly more than half of the $199,530 raised as of Jan. 31 to fight the city’s same-sex marriage law, according to reports filed with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.

“Nearly all of the $97,338 that reports show were contributed by other donors came from national anti-gay groups, including Focus on the Family, Family Research Council Action, the group’s political arm and the National Organization for Marriage.”

Oddly enough, there were no donations from D.C. residents.

In “Point Man for the Wedge Strategy: Harry Jackson is the face of the Religious Right’s outreach to African American Christians,” the People for the American Way Foundation pointed out that since endorsing George W. Bush in 2004, “Jackson has become somewhat of an all-purpose activist and pundit for right-wing causes – everything from judicial nominations to immigration and oil drilling -- but his top priorities mirror those of the Religious Right: he’s fervently anti-abortion and dead-set against gay equality.  And he has enthusiastically adopted the Right’s favorite propaganda tactic: he routinely portrays liberals, especially gay-rights activists, as enemies of faith, family, and religious liberty.”

Over the years, Jackson has graced the stage at several high-profile Religious Right-sponsored events (often as the only African American in the room), he ardently supported Bush, and in 2004 he co-authored a book with Christian pollster George Barna titled “High Impact African American Churches," and later co-authored “Personal Faith, Public Policy,” with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins.

2005 was Jackson’s coming out year, as he became a very public, and much sought after, figure, at least in Christian conservative circles. That year he founded the High Impact Leadership Coalition, which, according to its website aims to "help educate and empower church, community, and political leaders in urban communities in the United States focus on moral value issues."

As People for the American way’s Right Wing Watch pointed out, the High Impact Leadership Coalition’s Los Angeles launch was co-sponsored by the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coaliotion, a longtime anti-gay network of Christian churches “with close ties to the White House, RNC chair Ken Mehlman, and other senior Bush administration officials." Right Wing watch noted that “The number one priority of the black pastors at the conference was to endorse a heterosexual, biblical interpretation of marriage on behalf of the black community.”

In the summer of 2005, Jackson was a featured speaker at "Justice Sunday II: God Save the United States and This Honorable Court," an event organized by Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and Perkins’ Family Research Council.  At the time, a then-unsullied Ted Haggard -- at the time head of the National Association of Evangelicals – claimed that Jackson was “building a bridge between white evangelicalism and African American evangelicalism that we haven’t had in 20 years.”

The Christian Post, topping the year off, named Jackson one of the "Top 50 most influential Christians."

As High Impact impresario, Jackson authored "The Black Contract with America on Moral Values", a hodge-podge of issues that – with a few notable additions -- usually wind up in conservative authored “contracts”:

· Family Reconstruction; protection of marriage, end abortion, black child adoption by "stable Christian families"

· Wealth Creation; transformation of minority communities to encourage indigenous business, "prison after-care," Social Security reform, job manufacturing to lower unemployment

· Education Reform; school choice that doesn't destabilize existing public schools, increase black education participation, lessen drop-out rates, encourage No Child Left Behind structure

· Prison Reform; improve "3 strikes you're out" system, avoid recidivism with legislation like the Second Chance Act

· Health Care; affordable health care for blacks, long-term health education

· African Relief; direct funds to build infrastructure and stop the genocide in Sudan, stop U.S. companies from exploiting the Khartoum people by negotiating with it's government for fossil fuels.

Don’t fell too bad for Bishop Jackson. Regardless of the outcome of the same-sex marriage struggle in D.C., he’s still got his hands in the mix. He’s against the administration’s health care reform initiative: He told reporters at a news conference in August that "there's something wrong with a system that says ... the least of these have to be served."

He is an outspoken opponent of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

On March 1, Jackson is scheduled to speak during the General Session of the National Religious Broadcasters annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee.