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Efforts to legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) in Washington State:

2012-MAR: Referendum 74 title/wording changed.
2012-JUN: Referendum on the ballot. Polling data.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay ....

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2012-MAR-13: Final title and wording of Referendum 74 established:

After a lengthy hearing, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee ordered that a original subject, description, and summary for Referendum 74 as written by the Attorney General be replaced by new, more balanced text:

Item Original version New version
Statement of subject
The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage [and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill.]
The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic partnership law, and religious freedom, and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill.
Concise description
This bill would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry, modify existing domestic-partnership laws, allow clergy to refuse to solemnize or recognize marriages and religious organizations to refuse to accommodate marriage celebrations.
This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.
Ballot measure summary
The bill would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry, apply marriage eligibility requirements without regard to gender, and specify that laws using gender-specific terms like “husband” and “wife” include same-sex spouses. Clergy could refuse to solemnize or recognize any marriages. Religious organizations and religiously affiliated educational institutions could refuse to accommodate weddings. The measure would not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement. Domestic partnerships for seniors would be preserved.
This bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender, and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnerships are converted to marriages, except for seniors. It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies. The bill does not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement. 1

The phrase "redefine marriage" has been removed from the original description and summary, presumably because of its inflammatory nature.

Washington United for Marriage -- a pro-equality group -- issued a statement saying:

"We had serious concerns about the ballot title that the Attorney General’s staff drafted and proposed."

"Although the Attorney General has publicly announced his opposition to marriage for same-sex couples, as Attorney General his first responsibility in ballot measure elections is to make sure ballot language is balanced and neutral."

"Those opposed to civil marriage equality brought in Tea Party attorneys to argue for language that was even more inappropriate. The League of Women Voters and [Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays] PFLAG made a strong argument that the court need to remove prejudicial language, explain the law, and make the title easier to understand. We have a lot of respect for the voters of Washington and are grateful the Court helped to make sure the ballot language is fair." 1

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee said:

"I applaud the Judge’s decision to remove [Washington State Attorney General] Rob McKenna’s politically charged language from the ballot title. It’s unfortunate that it took a judge to stop Rob McKenna from playing politics with marriage. Washington is a forward-thinking, fair-minded state. Granting equality to all will bring fairness to the state of Washington. I believe this is a value worth fighting for." 1

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Voting "Yes;" voting "No:"

There is a confusing provision in Washington State laws concerning citizen initiatives. Referenda in Washington always ask voters whether they want to uphold the state law. Thus, those voting in favor of marriage equality would vote in favor of the referendum; those who want to repeal the law will vote "No."

The ballot will read:

"The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom, and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill. This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.

Should this bill be:

[ ] APPROVED

[ ] REJECTED"

Thus, this image was found on the Think Progress web site: Pro SSM graphic Those who want to continue to exclude loving, committed same-sex couples from the institution of marriage are urging that voters vote "No" on their amendment.

Of course, if Referendum 74 is rejected in 2012-NOV, it would merely repeal the 2012 marriage equality law. There would be nothing to prevent the legislature from passing a similar bill in the future.

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2012-JUN-06: Sufficient petition signatures apparently collected:

The legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry was scheduled to come into effect on JUN-07. However this was blocked by Preserve Marriage Washington (PMW). 2 On the previous day, they delivered 242,000 signatures on their petition to have a Referendum 74 placed on the 2012-NOV ballot to the Secretary of State's office in Olympia, WA. Only 120,577 were required.

According to chairperson Joseph Backholm:

"We had more than 1,500 churches and more than 5,000 individuals involved in the signature collection effort."

"We know those trying to redefine marriage are highly motivated, well organized, and well-funded. We expect to have to work very hard and will need the involvement of every common sense conservative in Washington State. ... We believe this is a good indicator of a tremendous amount of support in Washington for marriage. We also expect that Washington will join the other 32 states who have voted on this issue and conclude that marriage is a union between a man and a woman."

The signatures were delivered They must be verified before the referendum is approved. However with so many signatures provided there is essentially no chance that the citizen initiative will be rejected. 3

Backholm commented that his group's referendum would leave the existing civil union law intact, so that same-sex couples would still have the same legal protections as opposite-sex married couples. However, if the referendum passes and the law is repealed, same-sex couples would not be able to marry. The right to call their relationship a marriage is to many same-sex couples the most important right of all. It would be an interesting development if a polling agency were to ask married individuals in the state whether they felt that they would be giving up anything important if their marriage was cancelled by the state and replaced with a civil union document.

Also during election day in 2012-NOV:

  • Maine will hold a referendum in an attempt to restore same-sex marriages.

  • Maryland will also be holding a referendum similar to that of Washington.

  • Minnesota will vote on an amendment to their state constitution that defines marriage only as a union of one woman and one man.

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This topic continues in the next essay ....

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References used in this essay:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Referendum 74 gets a new ballot title; right wing to launch anti-equality signature drive," Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate, 2012-MAR-13, at: http://www.nwprogressive.org/
  2. Preserve Marriage Washington's home page is at: http://preservemarriagewashington.com/
  3. Michael Gryboski, "Gay Marriage Blocked in Washington State; Petition Gets Over 240,000 Signatures," Christian Post, 2012-JUN-11, at: http://www.christianpost.com/

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Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2012-MAR-13
Latest update: 2012-JUN-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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