Efforts to legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) in Washington State:
2012-JAN-25 to FEB-01:
Path forward. Conflicting
by a Kirkland, WA pastor & legislators.
2012-JAN-25: The future of marriage equality in Washington State:
Pastor Ken Hutcherson of the Antioch Bible Church of Kirkland WA responded to Governor Gregoire's support for same-sex marriage. He is the state spokesperson for Stand for Marriage -- a conservative Christian group whose main function is to prevent loving, committed same-sex couples from marrying. He said:
"She might as well change her name to Joan Wilkes Booth, because what she’s doing now is trying to put a bullet in the head of one of the greatest traditions that has ever existed and has built our society, and that is marriage between one man and one woman." 1
We find that comment difficult to understand because of two reasons. If the bill becomes law:
- Opposite-sex couples will still be able to marry as before and receive the exact same privileges, obligations, protections and rights as before.
- It would seem that the institution of marriage would become stronger in the state because thousands or tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are enthusiastic about marriage would be able to marry.
Social and religious conservatives from the state of Washington and the rest of the U.S. will almost certainly mount a petition drive to place a referendum on the ballot on 2012-NOV to repeal the SSM law.
As things now stand, the law would come into effect on 2012-JUN-01, a Friday. Howeverm according to the Associated Press, as soon as the law is signed into law -- perhaps during 2012-FEB -- the opponents of SSM would be able to file their proposed referendum with the state. If, as expected, it is accepted, the law would be stayed. No same-sex couples would be able to marry. 4
Sponsors of the referendum would have until JUL-06 to collect 120,577 valid signatures from registered voters on their petition. 2 They would certainly attempt to gather more as a safety factor against invalid signatures. A poll in 2011-OCT showed that 39% of the voters in Washington state oppose SSM. With this level of opposition In a state of over 6.7 million, a quarter million signatures should be easy to collect. If the sponsors lose interest or are unable to obtain sufficient signatures by JUL-06, then same-sex couples would be able to marry starting in June. If, as exected, the referendum is rejected by the voters, couples would be able to marry after the election results are officially confirmed.
2012-JAN-31: More negative comments on SSM by Pastor Ken Hutcherson; support for SSM by Reps:
Pastor Hutcherson is co-founder of the Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, WA, a non-denominational Christian congregation. He is a leader in the movement opposing SSM, both at the state and national level. He said that the bill before the Legislature has been:
"... forced on a majority of the people who don’t want this to take place -- the definition of marriage to be changed."
His statement conflicts with the Washington Poll which reported during 2011-OCT that in the event that the Legislature legalized SSM and there was a subsequent referendum to repeal the law, that 55% of voters would vote to preserve SSM, while 38% would vote for repeal. This is a margin of 17 percentage points -- the largest that we have ever seen among American voters on SSM.
He also commented:
"I think it is an issue that is going to become a big discussion on religious freedom concerning the aspect of those who say that it will not affect churches and pastors with their beliefs, but that has not been the case in the states that have passed those laws."
In the section of this website that deals with religious freedom, we note that the term once refer exclusively to freedom of religious belief, of religious practice, of religious assembly, etc. But lately it has been changing to mean the freedom of religious individuals and groups to denigrate and oppress others, and limiting their human rights. At the present time, they typically victimize sexual minorities. Still, we have never seen an instance in any of the U.S. states or Canadian provinces and territories where churches or pastors have been charged with any offense related to their religious beliefs, their religious rituals, their freedom of assembly, etc. There have been charges relating to criminal activities by church leaders, such as sexual abuse of youths and children, marring under-age girls, marrying people in polygamous relationships, embezzling money. etc. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives them absolute protection. The only exception that we have seen is that, as tax exempt organizations, church leaders are not permitted to promote the candidacy of a politician.
We have written to Pastor Hutcherson to find out if he knows of polling data that would confirm his belief that most adults in Washington State oppose SSM. We followed this up with an Email asking if he can cite any case where a church or pastor has been prosecuted for their beliefs, religious rituals, freedom of assembly, etc. either in a jurisdiction that allows SSM or in any other jurisdiction in North America. As expected, we did not receive a response.
Most elected officials who represent residents of the Kirkland area view the SSM bill as a civil rights issue, not a freedom of religion matter. Former mayor, Rep. Deb Eddy, (D-Kirkland) said:
"It is a hard line for some people to recognize. This is not something I would go out and take a poll on. It is consistent with equal protection as a society."
She sees the SSM debate as similar to interracial marriage in the U.S. before 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such marriages are legal across the U.S. She said:
"The same religious arguments were raised then. This is not a religious issue, it is a civil issue. ... This is one more step in modernizing a civil issue."
Pastor Hutcherson, who is African American, disagrees with the linkage between the past prohibition of interracial marriages and the present prohibition of same-sex marriage. He said that same-sex couples:
"... have never had to ride on the back of the bus; they were never harmed to the degree the African Americans were harmed simply because of their skin color and it’s a well-known fact that the constitution does not protect a minority that can change from one thing to the other. And it’s been proven that even though they say homosexuals cannot change, they were born that way, that is a lie because I have many ex-homosexuals in our church who have moved out of that lifestyle. So how can you have a minority who can move in and out of it? No, it has nothing to do at all with the civil rights movement."
His reference to the U.S. Constitution is not in accord with the facts. It does protect people's religious freedom even though an individual can change their religion at any time. Pastor Hutcherson is undoubtedly correct when he says that members of his church have "moved out of" the homosexual "lifestyle:"
- Some highly motivated people with a homosexual orientation can decide to become celibate and thus become an "ex-gay" -- using the conservative Christian definition of homosexuality which is defined in terms of sexual behavior.)
- Persons with a bisexual orientation can choose to abandon same-sex relationships and confine their sexual activity to opposite-sex partner and again become ex-gay (using his definitions.)
But the percentage of adults who can change their sexual orientation -- the gender of the persons to whom they are sexually attracted -- is either nil or essentially zero.
Another former Kirkland mayor, Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, said with reference to the SSM bill:
"I’ll support it. I think it’s a matter of equal protection under the law. It’s fair. The legislature has steadily been moving toward equity in marriage for gay couples over the years, this is the final step that finally gets us to parity."
Sen. Rodney Tom, (D-Bellevue), also supports the legislation because it would give equality and opportunity to loving, committed same-sex couples. He said:
"Our district is widely in favor of it. I do think it is a civil right." 3
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.
- Sarah Parnass, "A Step Forward and a Step Back for Same Sex Marriage," ABC News, 2012-JAN-25, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
- "Washington State on the Cusp of Marriage Equality. With governor's support and majorities in Senate and House, advocates have eye on opponents' referendum plans," Gay City News, 2012-JAN-24, at: http://www.gaycitynews.com/
- Matt Phelps, "Eastside pastor vows to fight same-sex marriage legislation; Kirkland officials support bill," Kirkland Reporter, 2012-JAN-31, at: http://www.kirklandreporter.com/
- "Washington state senate approves gay marriage," Associated Press, 2012-FEB-02, at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57370141/washington-state-senate-approves-gay-marriage/
Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2012-JAN-23
Latest update: 2012-FEB-09
Author: B.A. Robinson