Efforts to legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) in Washington State
President supports R-74.
Poll shows anti-SSM fear-based ads effective.
Ballots are counted.
2012-OCT-25: President Obama supports R-74. Fear-based ads unusually effective:
President Obama gave his support to R-74. An Obama campaign spokesperson issued a statement saying:
"While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the president believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect. Washington's same-sex marriage law would treat all Washington couples equally, and that is why the President supports a vote to approve Referendum 74." 1
Zach Silk, Campaign Manager for Washington United for Marriage -- a pro-SSM group -- responded:
”President Obama's support for marriage reflects what’s happening in Washington and across the country. As more people, and more voters, realize that only marriage fully protects and supports families, they move towards supporting marriage for same-sex couples and approving Referendum 74. We’re now in the home stretch, mobilizing thousands of volunteers with the largest ground game in Washington ballot history. We feel momentum is on our side, and having the President weigh in on approving Referendum 74 puts an extra gust of wind in our sails." 1
State Senator Ed Murray (D) commented:
"When I first began fighting in the legislature for marriage equality ... I would never have dared to dream that a president of the United States would one day step forward at this crucial moment, in the middle of his own close re-election campaign, to offer his support for our efforts. 2
Chip White of Preserve Marriage Washington -- an anti-SSM group -- said:
"Until May of this year, the president's position was that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. No one called him a bigot or said he was unfair for holding that position. And Washingtonians who believe in the traditional definition of marriage as one man and one woman are not bigots."
The term "believe in the traditional definition of marriage" is a phrase often used by social and religious conservatives to place a positive spin on excluding same-sex couples from marriage.
Pastor Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, WA is one of the main religious leaders to oppose SSM. He said:
"I laugh when people talk about how much money they've raised to promote a sinful lifestyle. God is not concerned about money and if we can successfully mobilize the Christians in our state who believe that marriage should be [only] between a man and a women, then we will succeed."
"My warning to the folks supporting Referendum 74 is they have picked a fight like they've never seen before. The fight to protect marriage is not about money, it's about motivating Christians to get out and vote."
Sudden change in the polls:
On OCT-24, Elway Research released their most recent polling data. It suggested that the vote for R-74 will be much closer than originally expected: 49% of voters supporting marriage equality while 45% oppose it, for a margin of only 4 percentage points. This is within the ±4.5% margin of error. This compares to 51% support and 37% opposition in the previous poll.
Frank Schubert, campaign manager for Preserve Marriage Washington, the main group fighting marriage equality, commented:
"This poll shows the progress our campaign has made in the past few weeks, having moved the numbers 10 [percentage] points in our direction since the last Elway Poll. This survey is bad news for supporters of Referendum 74 which would redefine marriage in Washington state. Our opponents have had the airwaves to themselves for months before our TV ads started only recently, and they’re outspending us by a margin of seven-to-one. Despite this, support for the referendum is dropping and opposition is rising rapidly." 1
On OCT-25, in a fundraising Email titled "Lies," Zach Silk wrote:
"This is exactly what happened in other states -- we led big in the polls, and our opponents waited until late in the race to launch their misleading and scary ads.
We always knew this would be close, and like every other marriage campaign, the numbers are tightening quickly at the end. This will come down to who executes better in the final days.
We are on the air pushing back hard against the lies, and we have the best Get Out the Vote team in the country. And we’re ready to do more, but we need the resources to do it.
This is crunch time, and our opponents are coming at us hard."
The vote on 2012-NOV-06 and the ballot counting process:
The drop in support for, and increase in opposition to R-74 appear to have been caused by fear-based TV ads sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage -- a conservative Christian group whose main goal is to prevent marriage equality across the U.S.
As election day approached, many commentators felt that the vote was too close to call.
Referendums in Washington that are intended to repeal a state law require voters to answer "Yes" to enable the law, and "No" to repeal the law. Thus, those voting in favor of marriage equality voted in favor of the referendum; those who want to repeal the law voted "No."
This put the organizers of the referendum in a awkward position of having to explain that they wanted the public to vote against the referendum that they had initiated.
NOV-06, Election Day, had many surprises. Not too long after the polls closed in Maryland and Maine, it became obvious from preliminary data that the ballot measures to legalize SSM had passed in both states. However, Washington state's results were different; it was not clear by late on election day whether R-74 was going to enable or repeal the SSM law. Initial results in Washington, based on only 57% of the votes cast, showed that 51.8% of the voting public supported SSM while 48.2% opposed it, for a margin of only 3.6 percentage points. The final count would not be completed and announced for Washington until later in the week because of the inevitable delays in the state's mail-in ballot system.
However, late on election day, Seattle PI wrote:
"Referendum 74 in this state was leading 51.8 percent to 48.2 percent, largely on the strength of support from populous King County and other Puget Sound counties. It was being roundly rejected in Eastern Washington and in more socially conservative counties of Southwest Washington.
'We are looking good and think this will hold, but you can never be too sure,' said State Sen. Ed Murray, (D-Seattle), chief sponsor of marriage equality legislation in Olympia." 3
By NOV-07, one day after election day, returns indicated that a slim but steady majority of about 52% of voters was holding.
On NOV-08 Washington United for Marriage -- a pro-marriage equality group -- declared a win for marriage equality. Their spokesperson, Zach Silk, issued a statement saying:
"We have always understood that there are good people on the other side of this issue. Yet, we remain confident that once people see how much marriage matters to families, they will realize that the love and commitment that marriage embodies only strengthens families, neighborhoods and communities." 4
Governor Gregoire (D) also issued a statement on NOV-08. She said:
"Voters stood up for what is right and what is just and said that all Washington families are equal under the law. This is a day that historians will look back on as a turning point for equality." 4
Finally, Preserve Marriage Washington, the main group opposing marriage equality in the state, issued its concession statement. They expressed disappointment at the results, and continued to denigrate same-sex relationships by saying that they will:
"... continue to educate citizens and policymakers on the timeless truth that real marriage is the union of one man and one woman." 4
Preserve Marriage Washington's campaign chairperson, Joseph Backholm, blamed his group's defeat on a number of factors. He noted that Washington is a "deep blue" state. He wrote:
"The election results reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in this very liberal and secular state. The results show only that in a deep blue state, with a huge financial advantage, gay marriage activists can win — barely." 4
The final vote will not be tabulated until NOV-27.
The election should be certified Secretary of State on DEC-05. Same-sex couples should be able to pick up their marriage licenses on the next working day. However, in Washington State, there is a three-day waiting period before a marriage can be solemnized. 4
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.
- Venice Buhan, "President Obama Supports Referendum 74 on Gay Marriage," BellevuePatch, 2012-OCT-25, at: http://bellevue.patch.com/
- Paul Stanley, "Obama Endorses Gay Marriage in Washington State, Maryland, Maine," Christian Post, 2012-OCT-26, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
- "Same-sex marriage leads in Washington, passes in Maryland, Maine," Seattle PI, 2012-NOV-06, at: http://blog.seattlepi.com/
- "Washington state OKs gay marriage; opponents concede," USA Today, 2012-NOV-08. at: http://www.usatoday.com/
Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2012-OCT-25
Latest update: 2012-NOV-11
Author: B.A. Robinson