A group of same-sex marriage opponents has brought a lawsuit against the Washington DC council, claiming that its refusal to hold a referendum on the decision to recognise gay marriages from other states “must be legally challenged”.

The plaintiffs, who include several members of the Stand4Marriage pressure group, want to force a referendum on whether same-sex couples who get married in states which allow gay marriage should be recognised as such.

Although same-sex marriages are still illegal in Washington, last month the DC Council voted overwhelmingly to recognise marriages enacted in other states.

The referendum has been blocked by District’s Board of Elections and Ethics because, according to 1977 Human Rights Act, election law prohibits the public from voting on matters concerning discrimination against gay men, lesbians and other minority groups.

Allowing such a referendum would, according to the district board “authorise discrimination.”

The board, against whom the civil suit has been brought, have been branded “an unelected board of bureaucrats” by Bishop Harry Jackson, a senior pastor of the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville and the leader of Stand4Marriage.

According to The Washington Post, Jackson said: “We are not going to sit by and allow [them] to deny voters their rightful say on this issue and, by their action, allow the institution of marriage and the entire structure of our society to be radically redefined.”

Peter Rosenstein, a veteran gay rights activist, is reported in the Washington Post as saying: “I trust the Superior Court will recognise and support what is clearly DC law, which says you cannot vote to discriminate against a group of individuals protected by the DC Human Rights Act.”

If neither the DC Superior Court or Congress intervene, the Council’s ruling to recognise same-sex marriages performed outside the state will become law early next month.