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

2012-OCT: First anti-SSM TV ads aired.
Current status and activity.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2012-OCT-12: First anti-SSM ads aired:

Preserve Marriage Washington -- whose main mandate is to prevent loving, committed same-sex couples from being able to marry -- started running TV ads on both broadcast and cable channels throughout the state. 1

The initial ad, titled "Not About Equality" says that since same-sex couples already have all of the same legal rights as married couples if they register as a domestic partnership, that they should not be allowed to marry. If that were true, then millions of dollars of effort would not have been raised to uphold the SSM law and allow same-sex couples to marry. In fact, there are three main reasons why SSM is needed by these couples:

  1. To many couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex, the main benefit of being able to register their relationship as a marriage is simply to have the right to say that they are married.

  2. Many companies, agencies and individuals in Washington State and in other locations where civil unions and domestic partnerships have been made available do not recognize them as granting the same rights as marriage.

  3. Although domestic partners and their children receive the same state legal and financial benefits that families led by married couples do, they receive no federal recognition, benefits, or protections. If the Washington State marriage law is upheld in the 2012-NOV-06 election, they still will receive no federal recognition, etc. because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). However, as soon as DOMA is overturned on constitutional grounds, if the state marriage law is upheld, then SSMs will be recognized federally. Same-sex married couples and their children across the U.S. would then receive over 1,100 federal benefits and protections. DOMA has been found unconstitutional in a number of Federal District Courts and one Federal Appeals Court so far. It is currently being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you don't believe the above, then ask a dozen married couples whether they would be willing to trade their marriage in for a civil union or domestic partnership. Probably none would.

Like so many previous anti-SSM ads, this one is also a fear-based advertisement. A main point of the ad was that if SSM is approved in Washington State, then lawsuits and human right complaints could be brought against companies and individuals who want to discriminate against same-sex couples. This might include florists, companies renting halls for wedding receptions, limousine rental companies, wedding photographers, and other individuals and companies involved in providing marriage services.

 2

Chip White, a spokesperson for Preserve Marriage Washington, cited such a case. But he had to go to the other end of the U.S. to find an example. It involved an inn in Vermont who refused to host the wedding reception of a lesbian couple from New York. Chip cited other lawsuits where a married or "civil unionized" couples had been refused services.

The main point of the ad does not stand up well to further scrutiny. Washington State already has recognized and registered same-sex couples as domestic partners. So if any lawsuits or human rights complaints were going to materialize, they would already have happened. There is no obvious reason why allowing these couples to marry would increase the number of such cases.

Andy Grow, a spokesperson for Washington United for Marriage (WUM) -- the lead group promoting marriage equality -- noted that discrimination based on sexual orientation is already illegal under state law. It was expanded in 2006 to include gays and lesbians. No lawsuits have occurred in the state in the past six years.

Commenting on the TV ad, his group stated on their web site:

" 'They are busted,' said WUM campaign manager Zach Silk. 'There is nothing new here, nothing that they haven’t dredged up before, and nothing that’s held up to to the light of day. This is about one thing only — misleading and scaring voters.  We believe people have wised up to these lies and understand that extending marriage to all loving couples is about fundamental fairness.  Simply put, our law hurts no one, and better protects all loving couples and their families'."

"Additionally, many of the most respected advocates of families and children have concluded that children fare just as well in homes headed by gay or lesbian parents and that by allowing those parents to marry, children are better protected. ..."

" 'It’s ironic to us that our opponents, who claim to oppose the freedom to marry on behalf of children and families, would actually seek to treat one set of children differently from another,' added Silk.  'If they really cared about doing all that we can as a society to help kids succeed and thrive, then they should embrace marriage for those parents so that all families are treated equally and fairly'." 3

The Seattle Times completed a study to determine whether a "gay-marriage wave of lawsuits" could be expected if the SSM law is upheld. They concluded:

"... because the state's proposed law exempts religious organizations from recognizing same-sex marriages, and because existing laws already make it illegal for businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and because other states with gay marriage have seen no increase in lawsuits, we find the claim to be mostly false." 4

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2012-OCT-21: Current status and activity:

  • Washington United for Marriage is the main group promoting SSM. They have raised $8.9 million dollars in funding so far.

  • Preserve Marriage Washington is the main group opposing SSM. They have raised $1.7 million dollars in funding. $600,000 was contributed by the Washington, DC based national anti-SSM group: National Organization for Marriage.

  • Arny Davis, a business owner who is chief deputy treasurer for Lewis County, will be voting to reject the law. He sees gay marriage as an:

    "... erosion of the moral fiber of our society. ... I don't like to impose my beliefs on other people, but I think you have to draw the line on issues like this. The sanctity of marriage is the core of a true family, in my opinion."

  • Preserve Marriage Washington's main arguments against SSM is that it's unnecessary. They claim that same-sex couples already have all of the same state-granted rights heterosexual married couples do. However, they overlook some factors:

    • Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said:
      "Just being handed a set of legal protections is not a substitute for standing in front of your family and friends and neighbors and the state and having the commitment you've made in life affirmed under law."
    • If you do not believe this, then try asking a dozen opposite-sex married couples if they would be willing to exchange their marriage certificate for a domestic partnership form.

    • Currently, domestic partners, and their children, cannot receive any of the approximately 1,150 benefits, protections and security from federal programs that are automatically given to opposite-sex married couples. If they were allowed to marry, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) would still prevent them from any of the benefits. However, DOMA has repeatedly been found to be unconstitutional by a variety of federal courts in recent months. It has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. If it is declared unconstitutional, then married same-sex couples would immediately begin receiving these benefits. 5

  • If the same-sex law is enabled, religious institutions would continue to be free to refuse to marry same-sex couples as always. In fact, denominations have been refusing to marry couples because of their race, age, sexual orientation, maturity, religion, etc. for centuries with impunity. The Roman Catholic Church has even refused to marry couples because one of the couple is physically disabled. However, secular companies that provide services to marrying couples could face charges under existing human rights legislation if they refuse to provide services on the basis of the couple's gender makeup. This would include bakers of wedding cake, wedding photographers, bridal dress outlets, etc. Such charges are unlikely, or they would have already happened in Washington State since the "everything but marriage" domestic partnership was introduced in 2009.

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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. Rachel La Corte, "Group fighting gay marriage law in Washington begins running statewide TV ads," The Republic, Columbus IN, at: http://www.therepublic.com/
  2. The initial ad can be viewed on You Tube at: http://youtu.be/
  3. "Busted: Opponents of Referendum 74 Lay Out Old, Discredited Claims in Denying the Freedom to Marry in First Television Ad," Washington United for Marriage, 2012-OCT, at: http://washingtonunitedformarriage.org/
  4. Susan Kelleher, "Truth Needle | Gay-marriage wave of lawsuits claim mostly false," 2012-FEB-11, at: http://seattletimes.com/
  5. Rachel La Corte, "Wash. gay marriage law to be decided by voters," The Seattle Times, 2012-OCT-13, at: http://seattletimes.com/
  6. "Representative Maureen Walsh remarks on ESSB 6239," You Tube, speech delivered 2012-FEB-08, at: http://youtu.be/
  7. Julie Gunter, "Censured but still outspoken: A Republican legislator stands up for marriage equity," Crosscut, 2012-OCT-23, at: http://crosscut.com/
  8. Venice Buhan, "President Obama Supports Referendum 74 on Gay Marriage," BellevuePatch, 2012-OCT-25, at: http://bellevue.patch.com/

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Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2012-OCT-12
Latest update: 2012-OCT-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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