Over the next month, we here at FellaBus will showcase one Washington state ballot measure each week. This week, it’s time to look at Referendum 74, which, if approved, would legalize same-sex marriage in the state.
For people like me, October 19 will be better than a holiday: that, friends, is the day that general election ballots will be mailed. And a few days later, when you sit down rip open that envelope, flail through the various security envelopes, and pull out your coveted ballot, this text will be staring you in the face:
“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”
Referendum 74 is on the ballot because, on February 13, Governor Christine Gregoire signed marriage equality into law. Here she is, post-signage, with some of our amazing bus-izens!
In the following months, same-sex marriage opponents decided, in response, to file a referendum, which, if enough signatures from registered voters are gathered, puts an existing law on the ballot for the public to vote on. Seeing as we’re talking about this today, enough signatures were gathered, and Referendum 74 is now one of our ballot measures in 2012. Since the law in question in this case legalized same-sex marriage, an approve vote on Referendum 74 means that a voter approves of same-sex marriage being legal, and a reject vote on Referendum 74 means that a voter thinks that same-sex marriage should not be legal.
Let’s be upfront here: us fellas love marriage equality, and we’re spending a good chunk of the summer throwing our efforts into approving Referendum 74 and ensuring freedom of marriage for all. Here are some reasons why!
Nobody really has a solid answer as to what the definition of marriage actually is.
The phrase “redefining marriage” implies that some universally solid definition of marriage exists to be redefined, and that simply isn’t the case. It’s true that approving Referendum 74 would change the legal parameters surrounding marriage. But while the current marriage ‘standard’ in the United States is between one man and one woman, people who complain about redefining marriage often fail to take into account that the definition of marriage has shifted and evolved many times, without the world collapsing. Marriage between people of different races, for example, wasn’t fully legal in the U.S. until 1967. Instances of bigamy and polygamy crop up in the major Christian, Jewish, and Islamic holy texts. Even the concept of marriage as a bond between two loving people is only a few hundred years old, with our ancestors from before that time marrying on the basis of survival, money, and/or a tolerable personality, amongst other situations. So, approving Referendum 74 would expand freedoms and benefits to more people, instead of radically altering the central elements of a modern United States marriage: love and commitment.
Allowing everyone the freedom to marry won’t have any impact on the religious freedom of others.
As you can see, it says right in the ballot text that Referendum 74 would “preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.” This isn’t an infringement on any religion at all; churches will have the complete legal freedom to make their own decisions about their stances on marriage equality.
Domestic partnerships aren’t enough.
Washington became the first state, in a fairly resounding 53%-47% margin, to ever uphold a ballot measure that expanded equal marriage rights, with the approval of Referendum 71 in 2009. Remember these dueling signs?
The approval of Referendum 71 allowed same-sex couples, and couples in which at least one of the partners is over 62 years old, to enter into domestic partnerships. So if LGBTQ people already have domestic partnerships, why do we need marriage?
Despite Referendum 71 often being called the “everything but marriage” law, there are still benefits of marriage that aren’t extended to couples in domestic partnerships. Some things are big: people in domestic partnerships who have certain types of health insurance extending coverage only through marriage still can’t add their spouses and kids to their plans. Some things are smaller: people in domestic partnerships run into tricky situations when applying to clubs and institutions with “married” rates, and face the conundrums of filling out forms and applications with the question of “Marital Status.” In any case, it’s pretty clear that the concept of domestic partnerships is pretty fuzzy.
When we say marriage, everyone knows what we mean. When we say domestic partnership, that becomes more muddled. Marriage is a way for two people in love to stand up in front of the state and make a commitment. It lets people stand up and make a commitment to always be there for each other, with everything that entails.
Washington could be the first place in the WORLD to uphold marriage equality in a public vote.
Yes, you heard me–the world. Washington was already well ahead of the curve when we approved Referendum 71 in 2009. But as of today, no state has ever voted to preserve a law legalizing same-sex marriage. In places where same-sex marriage is legal throughout the country, that decision came from the legislative bodies or the courts.
The thing is, marriage is a civil liberties issue. Right now, we’re denying citizens rights enjoyed by other citizens, and, according to the Fourteenth Amendment, it is illegal for the government to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Without marriage, LGBTQ people are banned from certain privileges–certain equal protections. Washington could be the first state to stand up and, simply, do the right thing.
Individual reasons for supporting marriage equality are nearly limitless. This post was intended as a basic overview for a few of those reasons, and my other fellows will be writing more about Referendum 74 in the days to come.
But I leave you with this graph, which, except for inaccurately using “gay” to refer to all people who would enter into same-sex marriages, sums up this situation pretty perfectly:
*Hat tip to Stephen Colbert, who is important not only for sharing a birthday with yours truly, but also for his Better Know A District segment on his show, from which this FellaBus series rather obviously takes its name.