Voters affirming domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian families

Dear Friend,

It was just September 2nd that Referendum 71 qualified for the ballot.  In that short period of time, supporters like you put in what seems like several lifetimes of work — pledging your vote to approve 71, writing letters to the editor, donating generously and often, phone banking, canvassing, distributing literature, changing your Facebook picture to include the Approve 71 logo, bringing in cookies, answering the phone, changing your voice mail message and email signature, waving signs on overpasses and giving us your encouragement every step of the way.

Because of you, Washington will soon become the first state in the nation to affirmatively vote to support domestic partnership benefits. We will have to patiently wait for final returns as ballots arrive at county elections offices over the next few days. About 50,000 ballots were tabulated in King County’s 4:30 pm count today, leaving just under 300,000 or so for King County still to count based on their projected turnout. For the ballots counted by King County today, Approve was 70%.  Tens of thousands of votes are still remaining to be counted in other counties where Referendum 71 is winning.

These results will be a win not just for the couples and families, but for all Washingtonians who believe in fairness and equality.

Together we built a broad coalition of over 280 non-profit allies, labor unions and associations, 150 members of clergy, and 50 congregations and Faith organizations , small businesses and large employers such as Nike, Starbucks, Google, Microsoft, and Group Health, and newspapers across the state spoke eloquently in support of Referendum 71.

There is simply no way we could have done it without you. To everybody involved with the Approve 71 campaign, a very heartfelt THANK YOU!

Anne Levinson
Approve 71  
Campaign Chair

Josh Friedes
Approve 71
Campaign Manager

The election night Press Release:

For Immediate Release – Nov. 3, 2009

Voters affirming domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian families

Washington may be first state in nation to support domestic partnership by popular vote

SEATTLE – Washington voters today appear to be approving Referendum 71, upholding a state law that provides important legal protections for gays and lesbians and seniors in registered domestic partnerships.

Nearly all of the state’s voters now vote by mail and ballots only need to be postmarked by Election Day, not counted by Election Day, so many ballots won’t actually be counted until Wednesday or Thursday. In King County, where ‘Approve’ is winning by a two-to-one margin, fewer than half the ballots have been counted, and the campaign estimates that the ballots that remain to be counted in King County will account for over 30 percent of the votes remaining to be counted statewide.

“Based on the results we saw tonight, we will be making history in moving forward toward full equality for gay and lesbian Washingtonians and their families,” said Anne Levinson, Chair of the Approve 71 campaign. “Voters across the state listened to the personal stories of gay and lesbian families, and the challenges they face, and, based on the returns so far, they are sending a resounding message – we want to see all families treated equally under the law.”

“We believe the end result of this election will be a win not just for the couples and families, but for all Washingtonians who believe in values of fairness and equality,” Levinson continued. “It was profoundly wrong for some to try to eliminate the rights of others.”

“We are all harmed when any of us is treated differently under the law. We hope this puts an end to the divisive and mean spirited attacks by extremist groups against gay and lesbian Washingtonians and that we can all work together on the real problems confronting all families – gay and non-gay alike.”

The Approve 71 campaign was supported by a broad statewide coalition and received more than 500 endorsements, including faith-based groups and organizations representing communities of color, seniors, education, health care and public safety; clergy of many denominations; labor; large employers such as Microsoft, Google, Starbucks, Boeing; small businesses; civic groups, organizations that care for families, immigrant populations and children, who all took a stand in support of their friends, neighbors and co-workers.

“This was one of the shortest statewide ballot campaigns in Washington. We had only weeks between certification and the first ballots going out. If these trends continue, this will be only the sixth referendum approved in the history of our state,” said Josh Friedes, Approve 71 Campaign Manager.  “To have these kinds of numbers in an off-year election where those who vote tend to be older and more conservative is a real testament to the broad support for Washington’s gay and lesbian families.”

Friedes and Levinson both noted that because of Referendum 71 – which Protect Marriage Washington, the Family Policy Institute, the National Organization for Marriage and others fought to force on the ballot –Washingtonians now have a greater understanding of the challenges faced by gay and lesbian families and the legal protections they lacked.

“Were it not for the referendum, the law would have just quietly gone into effect in July. By forcing the referendum, those groups have likely done quite a lot to advance the cause of full equality for lesbian and gay families in Washington state,” Levinson said.

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Sue Evans

Josh Friedes