Efforts to legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) in Washington State:
2012-FEB-03 to 06: Either a referendum or
is planned to repeal SSM law. Boycotts
House Judiciary Committee passes bill.
2012-FEB: Coalition plans to launch referendum if bill becomes law:
A coalition of about 40 organizations -- and growing -- is planning to have either a citizen initiative or referendum placed on the 2012-NOV ballot with the intent of repealing the SSM bill if it is signed into law. There are two approaches being discussed:
- A citizen initiative would restrict marriage to a union between one woman and one man. This initiative is being led by Stephen Pidgeon, 57, a lawyer in Everett, WA. It would require the collection of 241,153 signatures by valid registered voters in support of the referendum by JUL-06 in order to have it placed on the ballot. It is unclear whether the specific wording of his initiative will try to forcibly divorce loving, committed same-sex couples who became married between 2012-JUN-07 -- when the law becomes effective -- and 2012-DEC-06 -- when the election results are certified. Collection of signatures could begin immediately.
- A referendum would simply repeal the SSM law that is now before the legislature. It would need only 120,577 signatures by JUN-06. However, collection of the signatures could only start when the governor signs the bill into law or allows it to become law by default.
Dave Ammons, speaking for the Washington secretary of state's office, said:
"My guess is that foes of gay marriage will be going with the referendum challenge, since it takes fewer signatures and it gives a direct vote up or down on gay marriage. The initiative seems to be a backup plan."
Stephen Pidgeon said:
"We have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm about the initiative. People are gearing up, and we're going to move ahead strongly, and I believe quickly. We already have hundreds of churches that have already pledged thousands of signatures."
Chris Plante, regional coordinator in Washington for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) -- the main national group opposing marriage by same-sex couples -- said that NOM is going to promote the referendum option. He said:
"We're going to go forward as a united group because what's more important than the process is the end game of overturning this law and restoring marriage to its rightful definition. ... Politicians have to understand that there's a price to pay for voting to redefine marriage -- it is not what the people of Washington want."
He may be unaware of the University of Washington poll during 2011-OCT. It determined that 55% of Washington state voters would vote in a referendum to retain a SSM law; only 38% would vote for repeal; 7% were undecided or didn't answer. It would likely take tens of millions of dollars of fear-based TV ads to sway that level of public of SSM towards repeal.
Will the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal ruling impact on a referendum or initiative in Washington State:
Back in 2008, California went through a process something like Washington State is experiencing in 2012. In California, the state Supreme Court authorized SSMs in 2008-MAY. About 35,000 lesbians, gays and bisexual persons were married as same-sex couples over the next 5 months or so. A citizen initiative called Proposition 8, on election day in 2008-NOV terminated further SSM marriages. After a convoluted court challenge, on 2012-FEB-07: Prop. 8 was declared unconstitutional by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They ruled that once SSM had been legalized in a state, any citizen initiative or plebiscite that was passed to terminate the SSMs would always be unconstitutional.
However, same-sex couples in California are not yet able to marry because the ruling was suspended temporarily to give the promoters of Proposition 8 time to appeal the court decision.
Their options are to:
- Do nothing, and let loving, committed same-sex couples marry in California. Since the territory of the 9th Circuit Court also includes Washington State, this would mean that any plebiscite or citizen initiative on election day during 2012-NOV in Washington would be unconstitutional.
- Appeal the ruling of the three-judge panel to the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and, at least for a while, prevent same-sex couples from marrying in California, and allowing a plebiscite or citizen initiative in Washington to proceed.
- Appeal the case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court by bypassing the Court of Appeals. This would also allow a plebiscite or citizen initiative in Washington to proceed.
There are signs that religious and social conservatives are losing the battle to convince voters to oppose SSM by using reason. They are reverting to economic means to force their point of view:
- Evangelical Pastor Steven Andrew, president of the USA Christian Ministries in California, is organizing a national boycott of Starbucks. The latter was one of many companies that are supporting SSM in Washington state. He issued a statement saying:
"Starbucks can follow Satan if they want to. However, pastors are to help Christians. Are you on the Lord's side? Will you help the USA be blessed by God?"
Andrew may be implying that if SSM is authorized in the state of Washington, that God is going to retaliate with natural disasters on the entire country.
This website performed a pilot study to assess the will of God on SSM. Results of the study were quite surprising.
Starbucks responded with an email to Reuters saying:
"Starbucks is proud to join other leading Northwest employers in support of Washington state legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples."
NOM is pledging $250,000 to help defeat any Republican senators who voted in favor of the SSM bill if they seek re-election.
- Chris Plante of NOM has estimated that it would cost over $2 million to fund a campaign to defeat a referendum in Washington. This is far short of the expenditure -- largely by the Mormon and Catholic Churches -- to promote Proposition 8 that terminated SSMs in California. He did not indicate how much money NOM is prepared to spend in Washington. 1
2012-FEB-06: House Judiciary Committee approves SSM bill:
The House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on House Bill 2516 which would legalize same-sex marriage. They later passed it on to the full House for a vote, after a 7 to 5 vote. It could conceivably be voted upon by the House as soon as FEB-08.
During the hearing:
- Rep. Laurie Jinkins, (D) testified in support of the bill. She was accompanied by her partner of 23 years, Laura Wulf, and their 11-year-old son, Wulf. She said:
"We all understand that marriage is not just about contracts and rights and responsibilities. It's about love and commitment."
She left out rights and protections which are an important part of marriage.
- Maureen Richardson, the state director for Concerned Women for America, a fundamentalist Christian group opposed to equal rights for the LGBT community. was concerned that SSM would negatively affect families. She said:
"Marriage is just too important to the culture to be redefined."
She might be unaware that if the bill becomes law, it would be the third time that marriage will have been redefined in the history of the U.S.
The first was in the 19th century when all African Americans were allowed to marry. The second was in the 20th century when interracial marriages became legal across the country.
Several amendments that had been offered by Republicans were defeated. One would have enlarged the group of those who discriminate against same-sex couples with impunity. As the bill is written, clergy and religious institutions are protected if they want to refuse to marry same-sex couples. The amendment would have added protection to marriage-related businesses such as wedding cake bakers, wedding photographers, etc. so that they could also have refused to deliver services to same-sex couples without running afoul of human rights legislation in the state.
As currently written, the law will not become effective until 2012-JUN-07.
Opponents to marriage equality are planning to initiate a referendum to repeal the bill. Between the time that Governor Gregoire (D) signs the bill, or allows it to become law by default, and JUN-06, they will have to collect 120,577 supporting signatures of valid voters in order to have the referendum placed on the ballot in 2012-NOV. 2
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.
- Nichole Neroulias, "Washington Gay Marriage: Opponents Planning Referendum Amid Bill Advancement," 2012-FEB-03, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- Rachel La Corte, "House committee advances gay marriage bill," KIMATV,
2012-FEB-06, at: http://www.kimatv.com/
Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2012-FEB-07
Latest update: 2012-FEB-14
Author: B.A. Robinson