Washington state voters in 2009 approved Referendum 71, variously known as the domestic-partners or “everything but marriage” law. While the issue itself was settled, an ancillary free-speech issue was not, and it received a hearing last week at U.S. District Court in Tacoma.
In vetoing a bill that would grant same-sex couples the same rights as married couples, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said voters should decide: “It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials.”
In our state Constitution, citizens reserve much power for themselves. They can overturn legislative acts, and craft laws themselves through the initiative process. One such effort, in 1972, created the pioneering Public Disclosure Act.
Jolene Unsoeld knows a little something about circulating initiative petitions. And about open government. Unsoeld was one of the driving forces that put Initiative 276, the Washington’s pioneering Public Disclosure Act, on the ballot 38 years ago.
One fundamental fact about democracy almost goes without saying: Anyone who tries to rewrite any law should be identified. The public deserves such disclosure and citizens are owed such accountability.
State Rep. Mike Armstrong has come up with what he thinks is another legitimate reason to keep secret the names of those who sign a statewide initiative or referendum: to protect law enforcement officers from physical harm.
No victor in today’s Clark County election is likely to be named among Bill O’Reilly’s “Pinheads and Patriots” or excoriated by Keith Olbermann as the “Worst Person in the World.”
Years ago, an early winter storm could doom the turnout on an election day. Faced with blustery winds and drifting snow, prospective voters would often surrender to the elements and forego the arduous task of getting to the polling booths on time.
Voters should always take care when making their election picks, but some parts of the ballot deserve more attention than others this year.
Washington state posted a record 85 percent voter turnout last year, thanks to intense interest in the heated Obama-McCain presidential race as well as the repeat Gregoire-Rossi gubernatorial contest. No such star-caliber showdowns are at stake this year – and similar voter traffic is not expected.
During the past few weeks, the editorial board for the Yakima Herald-Republic has provided its opinion on a number of races for public office, a countywide criminal justice sales tax and two statewide measures. Here’s a rundown on those endorsements, with excerpts from our editorials, which might prove helpful to voters who have yet to cast their ballots for Tuesday’s election.
Last Sunday we concluded our annual political endorsements in this space. Tuesday night we’ll see how the races settle out with the voters.
Today, The Olympian’s editorial board provides a summary of endorsements for Tuesday’s general election. During the last month, The Olympian has offered recommendations on two statewide ballot propositions and contested port, county, city and school board races.
The Seattle Times has been interviewing candidates and proponents and opponents of ballot measures for several months. We offer our recommendations in key races.
How will you be voting on Referendum 71? Do you think that lesbian and gay couples in committed relationships should have the same rights and protections as heterosexual couples?
How will you be voting on Referendum 71? Do you think that lesbian and gay couples in committed relationships should have the same rights and protections as heterosexual couples?
The fair and just vote on Referendum 71 would be for “approved.” The ballot measure affirms the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners as spelled out in SB 5688, passed in the 2009 legislative session by overwhelming majorities in both houses.
OPPONENTS of Referendum 71 are using more arm waving and fancy footwork than an aerobics class. Groups working against a sensible expansion of Washington’s domestic-partnership law are desperate to change the subject. They are inventing distractions.
Protecting individuals and their families is the most important reason for approving Referendum 71 in the upcoming election in Washington state.
The firestorm surrounding Referendum 71, which would keep the state’s everything-but-marriage law, is a two-pronged debate. There’s what the law does, and what might come next. We think voters should decide R-71 based on the first question.
Referendum 71: Approve. The Bellevue Reporter recommends approving Referendum 71 to expand domestic partnership rights to gay and lesbian families as well as senior domestic partners.
Washington voters should approve Referendum 71.
ANY suggestion of voter confusion, real or not, favors opponents of Referendum 71, which seeks to expand rights for registered domestic partners and their families. Foes want it to seem a messy jumble.
Don’t let procrastination steal your ballot; remember to vote in Nov. 3 election.
Election Day is still a little over a week away, but the voting is well under way.
Referendum Measure No. 71 – APPROVED
This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities, and obligations accorded state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.
There is nothing as anti-American as legislation that takes civil rights away from law-abiding citizens.
It is by making good choices that the citizens of our towns, counties, state and country make their government work. Too bad so many — very nearly half by [Secretary of State Sam] Reed’s estimation — will not make any choice at all.
Referendum 71 shouldn’t be confusing. But it can get that way in a hurry.
The other state ballot question asks voters whether or not Senate Bill 5688 — which expands rights for state-registered same-sex and senior domestic couples but does not consider them “married” — should remain on the books. …We endorse approval, and letting the will of our elected officials stand.
Today, The Olympian’s editorial board offers an unqualified endorsement of equal rights for same-sex domestic partners. We encourage voters to approve Referendum 71 on Nov. 3.
The Reporter recommends approving Referendum 71, also on the Nov. 3 ballot, to expand domestic partnership rights to gay and lesbian families as well as senior domestic partners. Opponents of the legislation want to “protect” marriage, but in reality, the opponents only want to protect their own deeply-ingrained prejudices and fear of change.
The first thing voters need to know about Referendum 71 on the Nov. 3 ballot is precisely what question is being asked. Voters are being asked if they support Senate Bill 5688, which passed this year in the Legislature and expanded domestic partnerships. Voters are not being asked if they want to repeal that bill. Thus, if you approve of fairness and equality for domestic partners, vote “Approve.” We hope this will be your choice. The Columbian editorially applauded SB 5688 earlier this year.
We urge voters to approve Referendum 71, which keeps in place the state law that gives same-sex couples — those who do not have the option of marriage — essential protections and rights of married couples.
In 2007, the Oregon Legislature approved a strong domestic partnership law, granting gay and lesbian couples legal and economic protections roughly equivalent to those of marriage.
The Mirror recommends approving Referendum 71 to expand domestic partnership rights to gay and lesbian families as well as senior domestic partners.
The state of Washington needs to recognize the rights of domestic partners so their partners and children can be fully protected in case something goes wrong. The protections and rights of a marriage need to be available to everyone, not just those who fit into a specific, traditional formula.
Listening to the opponents of Referendum 71, you’d think the Washington state Legislature had either outlawed marriage, made it legal for same-sex couples or advocated the burning of Bibles. None of those things happened when Senate Bill 5688, or the “everything but marriage” law, was adopted last spring.
Today, The Olympian’s editorial board offers an unqualified endorsement of equal rights for same-sex domestic partners. We encourage voters to approve Referendum 71 on Nov. 3.
SECURING fundamental fairness for all Washington families requires voter approval of Referendum 71 on the November ballot. The Seattle Times strongly endorses voter passage of legislation to expand rights for registered domestic partners. The law, already adopted by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire, takes effect after a majority of voters mark “Approved.”
THE campaign to affirm the legal rights and responsibilities of all Washington families has attracted an impressive coalition of support. Approval of Referendum 71 has been endorsed by the region’s largest employers, civic groups, a spectrum of religious organizations, business and professional associations, labor unions and good-government groups.
A strong majority of Washingtonians have come to believe that it is unfair to deny same-sex couples the same fundamental human rights as we acknowledge for conventional couples. Discrimination based on who someone falls in love with just isn’t right.
THE Seattle Times strongly recommends Referendum 71 — sensible legislation to expand the rights and responsibilities of domestic partnerships — be approved by voters in November. Key word: approved.
A yes vote on Referendum 71 will keep us right where we want to be, reaffirming our commitment to ensure fairness and equality for all Washington citizens.
Democracy, it has been said, can be messy. Allowing the greater number to rule, enduring contentious campaigns, risking the tyranny of the majority … these traits can lead to discord surrounding any meaningful issue, and they must be tempered with the overriding hand of fairness.
Referendum 71 is on the November ballot. Voters must step up and affirm the rights, benefits and responsibilities for same-sex domestic partnerships and their families.
Debate over public policy is always welcome if it is productive and civil. But we are concerned the effort under way to put a referendum on the ballot aimed at overturning the state’s domestic partnership law could spawn a divisive, even hurtful, debate.
When discrimination dies, it doesn’t always go quickly or quietly. Sometimes, prejudice passes incrementally. Although a judicial ruling might serve the same purpose of kicking down a door, the legislative process often unfolds in stages.
I have said this before and I am sure I will say it again, but in this context, it certainly bears repeating: I am not gay. . . That said, while I was pleased to see the governor on Monday sign a new law granting to domestic partners all of the rights and privileges that simply come with marriage, it just does not go far enough.
. . . residents need to understand that this is not a gay marriage bill nor is it a measure giving gays so-called “special rights.” What it does is give same-sex partners and some heterosexual senior couples equal access to laws available to married couples.
In the debate over gay marriage, there are two kinds of opponents: those who support equal rights as long as there isn’t a ceremony called marriage, and those who oppose granting equal rights because that’s seen as a slippery slope to gay marriage. The former are in the firm majority; the latter belong to a distinct minority, but in Washington state they will attempt to reverse an equal-rights law anyway. According to an April Quinnipiac University poll, American voters oppose (55 percent to 38 percent) a law in their state allowing same-sex couples to marry, but support (57 percent to 38 percent) allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions. The poll notes majority support for same-sex couples being able to adopt, garner employee benefits and other rights. It also shows support for allowing openly gay people to serve in the military.
Petition Alert: Voters racing to and from the grocery store should steer clear of the newest petition drive, an ill-advised effort to overturn the state’s recently passed “everything but marriage” law. A coalition of conservative groups filed Referendum 71, seeking a November vote to undo legislation that extends state-given benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples — almost everything but the name. This is an unnecessary campaign at a lousy time. Don’t sign. Don’t put our state through another rendition of the culture wars.
Putting aside, for a few days, its anticipated ruling that will expand “free speech” rights of corporate America, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken unto its bosom champions of discrimination who cry out that they face persecution.
Gays can’t win at the ballot box. That has always been the harsh reality.
With every birthday comes new privileges and opportunities. When we’re counting down the last few days to our birthday, we’re usually looking forward to something exciting. It could be just a small gathering of friends, a newly legal pub crawl, or, at the age of 18, the ability to buy lottery tickets and porn and register to vote.
A vote to approve Referendum 71 is a vote to keep the domestic partnership law in place. This law provides legal protections for lesbian and gay couples and for heterosexual couples where one partner is age 62 or older. This law allows for older people to gain legal benefits without jeopardizing Social Security or other economic benefits that would be adversely affected by marriage.
Marisa Willis, Seattle Times’ fall letters editor, offers this sprightly appeal to voters age 18 to 30. Willis is a student journalist, soon to graduate from Western Washington University. “It’s not Obama, so I’m not voting,” is an assertion currently running rampant through the circles of 20-somethings in Seattle and the rest of King County.
All this time, I have been expecting Susan Hutchison to become the next King County executive. She may still accomplish that, but a new poll is suggests maybe not.
In 2007, Washington’s first domestic partnership law opened the door for domestic partners to have many of the same rights and obligations as spouses.
In 2007, Washington’s first domestic partnership law opened the door for domestic partners to have many of the same rights and obligations as spouses.
As a globally recognized plant expert, Dan Hinkley once had us nurturing a marvelous exotic tree, the Dawn Redwood, which he carried home from a collecting trip to the wild west of China’s Sichuan province.
My partner, Kate Fleming, touched thousands of lives with her voice. With astonishing versatility and vivacity, she narrated more than 250 audiobooks as diverse as A Beautiful Mind, Bel Canto and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
The legislative bill related to Referendum Measure 71 passed in our state senate this year 30 to 18 and in our state house 62 to 35, but now, because of a citizens’ petition, it appears on our November ballot.
While heading into work on Friday, I saw a small group on the corner of Second Avenue and Lincoln Street waving signs in opposition to Referendum 71, which would give voter approval to the “everything but marriage” law that was adopted by the Legislature last spring. The law grants to registered same-sex couples the same rights and benefits accorded married couples under state statutes. Normally, I wouldn’t mind such a political display, but among those holding “Protect Children” placards were children themselves.
My husband and I would have supported the rights of domestic partners whether or not we had a child who is gay. But Daniel brings this issue of civil rights home.
“These people are saying mean things about us.” Our 11-year old son whispered these words to the rest of our family as we waited to testify in front of the Washington state House Judiciary Committee last February in support of the Domestic Partnership Expansion bill, the “Everything but Marriage” law.
The state of civil rights in this country is an affront to everything we stand for. Gay American citizens are being denied basic rights to which they are constitutionally guaranteed, all because their sexual orientation denies them an official marriage.
There’s nothing frightening about this law. Nor is it complex. It’s a simple endorsement of equal treatment for all Washington residents, especially in times of need.
If you don’t think a loved one deserves hospital visitation rights…
Imagine you get a call at work and you learn that a member of your family has been in a severe car accident or diagnosed with a terrible disease. It may take months for this family member to recover. Or, perhaps, they have been given only a few weeks to live. And you have no family medical leave you can take without the risk of losing your job.
Born and raised in Clark County as a fourth-generation Washingtonian, I was brought up to treat people fairly. Not everyone will be as successful or happy as everyone else, but everyone should have the same opportunities. It is for this reason that I support Referendum 71 to preserve rights for state-registered domestic partners.
Listening to the high holy talk coming from the opponents of Referendum 71, one might assume God will unleash swarms of locusts upon Washington state if the domestic partnership law is upheld by voters.
“IT’S nothing personal.” They are the three most dishonest and disorienting words anyone has ever told me. I heard them three years ago in the wake of a tragedy that changed my life forever. Hearing them again in connection with Referendum 71, which puts the rights and protections of thousands of Washington families at risk, compels me to respond.
Come Nov. 3, people in this state will have a chance to decide whether to be fair or not to others who do not have the same set of circumstances they do. Thanks to a group of people who are threatened by this proposition, the law on domestic partnerships is now before the voting public in Referendum 71.
I have read several articles that discuss the pros, cons and the processes for Referendum 71 on the Nov. 3 general election ballot. …I will tell you that based on what I have read and understand, I am in favor of the referendum because I believe it is right to ensure that state-registered domestic partners are fully recognized under Washington law.
I never wanted to be a poster child for anything. But now I’m becoming one for the sake of my own family and thousands of others in Washington who do not enjoy equal protection under the law.
Stuart and John. I’ve never known one without the other.
This November, voters could deny basic rights to thousands of Washington State residents. If Referendum 71 does not pass, thousands of same-sex couples in Washington will be denied the right to domestic partnerships.
We, the youth of America, might seem to be a generation more concerned with texting and parties than anything happening in the world. However apathetic Generation Y may be, we have an amazing political weapon that is only now beginning to show: that of our inborn tolerance.
I am a 24-year-old gay male who has been with my partner (age 23) for two years now. We are in a loving, caring, healthy and normal relationship. We recently registered as domestic partners to have more rights granted to us as a couple. Those rights include visiting each other in the hospital if one is sick and even something as simple as being allowed to be told if the other is in the hospital or not and his current status.
The opponents of domestic partnerships in Washington would have you believe that an act known as “Everything but Marriage” actively threatens marriage.
While a few court challenges linger, it now appears all but certain that Referendum 71 – fundamentalist Christian religious leaders’ attempt to overturn our state legislature’s “all but in name” bill giving legal rights equivalent to marriage to unmarried straight or gay couples – will be on the ballot this November. And my first, overwhelming reaction is: what a complete and utter waste of time and resources.
In November, many of us in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allied community will be asking you to vote “yes” for equality by approving Referendum 71. Your vote can help ensure that state-registered domestic partners are fully recognized under the law.
Roger Williams founded Rhode Island as a matter of principle. A free-thinking theologian, he deplored the idea of state-sponsored religion and church-sponsored law.
I have a confession to make. I’ve been in the closet. And I’m not talking about the kind of closet that would undoubtedly leave me wifeless. Rather, it is that cluttered space in life that pops up from time to time where the intrinsic need to speak up for what is right is blurred by a selfish need to avoid being ostracized by those whom we love and respect.
Enough Washington residents have signed a petition to put Referendum 71 on the November ballot. Guest columnist Melinda Moree writes about how the vote’s potential to undo the state Legislature’s expansion of domestic-partnership rights clouds the lives of families like hers.
When I thought about the experiences and challenges I’d face as your state senator, I didn’t think that in my first year I’d find myself on the front lines of a fight that’s been brewing over the last 40 years.
I was sorry to see opponents of sensible legislation giving gay and lesbian partners most of the rights of married couples turning in what might be a sufficient number of signatures to overturn the new law. Just what we need: a fall campaign that reignites the social wars in Washington – not!
This pride season, 40 years after the Stonewall Revolution of 1969, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have a lot to celebrate. I’d like to dedicate this column to Sylvia Rivera and the other Stonewall activists who are no longer with us to celebrate and reflect on the 40th anniversary of the modern LGBT movement. From Iceland to Iowa, 2009 marks an important milestone in the fight for equal rights.
Today, the next chapter in a legal case that many thought was long since over will be argued in Federal District Court in Tacoma, Washington. The case, Doe v. Reed, stemmed from the 2009 Referendum 71 campaign in Washington State where a local group, Protect Marriage Washington (PMW), an affiliate of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM), promoted a ballot measure to repeal the state’s recently enacted domestic partnership law. They were opposed in that effort by Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST), a progressive statewide alliance which I helped form and then chaired to stop the attempted repeal. On Election Day in November, 2009, 53.15% of voters approved retaining the domestic partnership law, making Washington the first state in the country to vote affirmatively in support of comprehensive relationship recognition for LGBT families.
What many may not be aware of is that from the moment PMW began collecting signatures to put the referendum on the ballot, they also began a well-choreographed effort to circumvent the State’s public disclosure laws, part of NOM’s multi-state strategy. They argued to the state public disclosure commission while their allies argued in federal district court that they should not be required to report who was contributing to their campaign and in what amounts. As they turned in their petition signatures to qualify for the ballot, they also filed suit in yet another courtroom seeking a temporary restraining order blocking the Secretary of State from releasing the referendum petitions pursuant to the State’s Public Records Act (PRA), as has been the routine practice of the State.
That was July 2009. The district court granted the TRO and scheduled the hearing for September, which meant that WAFST could not access the records we needed to challenge the signature certification. The petitions were needed to verify the anecdotal evidence of fraud and mistake voters had shared with WAFST, which if true, would have kept the measure from being certified for the ballot. The district court ruling made our challenge impossible. Instead, after many weeks of review by the Secretary of State in rooms packed with observers from both campaigns (picture tired election workers looking computer screens in an effort to match each signature), the election was certified for the ballot. We had less than 10 weeks to campaign against repeal. The case went up on appeal while the campaign was ongoing. The Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals heard oral argument on October 14th and overturned the district court’s decision eight days later, less than two weeks before Election Day.
The Court of Appeals found that the State has two interests: (1) preserving the integrity of the election by promoting government transparency and accountability; and (2) providing Washington voters with information about who supports placing a referendum on the ballot. Both interests, the Court said, plainly qualify as important:
“A [s]tate indisputably has a compelling interest in preserving the integrity of the election process…In Washington, the PRA plays a key role in preserving the integrity of the referendum process by serving a government accountability and transparency function not sufficiently served by the statutory scheme governing the referendum process. Without the PRA[Public Records Act], the public is effectively deprived of the opportunity independently to examine whether the State properly determined that a referendum qualified, or did not qualify, for the general election.”
“Moreover, the PRA is necessary for citizens to make meaningful use of the state superior court challenge also provided by statute… The superior court procedure would be at best inefficient and at worst useless, if citizens have no rational basis on which to decide whether they are “dissatisfied” with the Secretary of State’s determination before filing a challenge – and they cannot gain that understanding without the right to inspect the petition sheets. That statute provides: Any citizen dissatisfied with the determination of the secretary of state that . . . [a] referendum petition contains or does not contain the requisite number of signatures of legal voters may, within five days after such determination, apply to the superior court of Thurston county for a citation requiring the secretary of state to submit the petition to said court for examination, and for a writ of mandate compelling the certification of the . . . petition, or for an injunction to prevent the certification thereof . . . .”
The other side appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The campaign continued. The Court granted certiorari and in an 8-1 decision, authored by Chief Justice Roberts the following June, the Court upheld the State’s disclosure laws as constitutional. Justice Roberts agreed that disclosing the names of signers can prevent fraud and promote open government, “Public disclosure thus helps ensure that the only signatures counted are those that should be, and that the only referenda placed on the ballot are those that garner enough valid signatures,” Roberts wrote. “Public disclosure also promotes transparency and accountability in the electoral process to an extent other measures cannot.”
Even Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the Court’s core conservative members, concluded in his concurrence that, “[r]equiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.” “For my part,” Scalia wrote, “I do not look forward to a society which, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaigns anonymously and even exercises the direct democracy of initiative and referendum hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave.” Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.
So why, after more than 26 months, is this case still going on? PMW’s argument was that public scrutiny of their signatures would result in harassment and intimidation by those who support LGBT equality. The Supreme Court’s ruling had addressed the issue of disclosure laws for ballot measures in general, but did not address the specific allegations made about Referendum 71. The Court left the door open for a party to prove that in a specific election there was a reasonable probability that they would be subject to the same sorts of harm as had been suffered by the NAACP or the Socialist Workers Party in decades past, but the Court made it clear that the bar was high. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted in her concurring opinion, “ … courts presented with an as-applied challenge to a regulation authorizing the disclosure of referendum petitions should be deeply skeptical of any assertion that the Constitution, which embraces political transparency, compels States to conceal the identity of persons who seek to participate in lawmaking through a state-created referendum process.”
So PMW went back to federal district court where WAFST, the State and the Washington Coalition for Open Government continued to oppose their argument that the Referendum 71 petitions should be kept from the public. After months of proceedings, the judge decided in September, as we had argued, that there were simply no facts which warranted a trial and he could instead rule based on the law. WAFST’s position is that despite PMW’s repeated assertions that there was threatened harassment and intimidation which warrant anonymity, months of depositions and briefings have only served to highlight that the allegations PMW and NOM’s attorney made here are no more valid than they have been in any other state.
And why does it still matter? After all, the voters upheld the domestic partnership law, preserving the legal rights and protections for LGBT families in Washington. Perhaps if that had been the only thing at stake we would not have continued to donate thousands of hours of time to this fight after the election was over (big thanks by the way to the Perkins Coie law firm who has represented WAFST pro bono). But if the court were to rule that these petitions could be kept secret, it would take away an important tool that helps ensure accountable and legitimate elections and set a terrible precedent for future campaigns, particularly those that engender heated debate, not only here but across the country.
Washington’s Public Records Act and campaign disclosure laws, like those of other states, help to ensure that elections, especially elections addressing fundamental constitutional rights, are conducted transparently and fairly. The State clearly has a compelling interest in combating signature fraud. The Public Records Act (PRA) makes public records, including referenda petitions, available for public inspection, and in the case of ballot measures, allows either side or members of the public to inspect the records in order to establish a basis for a challenge.
WAFST sought to keep all records open, so that the public could know as much as possible when deciding how to vote. When it appeared that petitions used to qualify the measure for the ballot might be in violation of various statutory requirements, and the measure might be put on the ballot without the required number of registered voters having signing petitions, WAFST then made a public disclosure request for the petitions so that it could determine whether the Secretary of State had made any errors in concluding that certain signatures and petitions were valid. WAFST requested that the petitions be available to the public, as required by the PRA, not only so that fraud or mistake could be identified to help ensure the measure accurately qualified for the ballot, but to help highlight fraudulent tactics and practices utilized that might impact the integrity of future elections as well.
WAFST’s position is that those who cause the heated debate by promoting measures designed to lessen the rights of others should be willing to let the public ensure the election they demand is conducted fairly. It has become routine for groups like PMW and NOM to complain that public disclosure will make them vulnerable to threats and harassment. The evidence in state after state shows otherwise. Twenty-three states use ballot initiatives and referenda to enact or retain legislation and also require the petitions be public records. Between 1997 and 2009, there were eighteen separate statewide initiatives and referenda to deny or repeal legal protections for gay and lesbian persons. There are presumably hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who signed petitions in the past decade supporting the inclusion of such measures on the ballot. And yet with the full force of numerous advocacy groups opposed to civil rights for gay and lesbian individuals devoted to lawsuit after lawsuit, the anti-gay organizations have been unable to show a single court that voters suffered retaliation or were ‘chilled’ from signing a petition as a result. The anti-gay organizations, for all of their heated rhetoric in our case, have again failed to produce any such evidence. In fact, the identities of financial contributors, not just petitions signers, to Referendum 71 have been public on the State’s and other websites for two years. Nonetheless, there is no evidence that anyone who made a financial contribution to support PMW or R-71 has faced any threats, reprisals, or harassment.
LGBT individuals continue to face significant violence, discrimination, and harassment, above and beyond anything these groups have alleged, let alone experienced. The irony should not go unnoticed that these groups foster heated debate by promoting divisive measures and then complain about the robust debate that follows when people’s fundamental legal rights are at stake. These same groups and individuals demanding secrecy have fought for years against laws that would protect LGBT individuals from very real harm – from bullying in school to hate crimes. Again today, their creative narrative of victimization is not supported by the record before the Court. It is based on stories of discomfort over strong advocacy, reflecting the sorts of activities and rhetoric that are endemic to many hard-fought political campaigns.
The petition process has become a favored tool of the right for subjecting LGBT individuals to further attacks. Detection and prevention of fraud in qualifying such measures for the ballot is one of the few ways to defend against these often mean-spirited and harmful elections. LGBT people have found themselves the target of scores of ballot measures designed to treat them unequally to others. After a comprehensive study, University of Michigan political scientist Barbara S. Gamble concluded that “[g]ay men and lesbians have seen their civil rights put to a popular vote more often than any other group.” State election regulations that provide for public access to petition records provide at least some protection against hostile ballot initiatives. Exaggerated tales of victimization are used by groups such as NOM and PMW in an effort to take away this protection.
The opportunity to prevent fraudulent certification gives the gay and lesbian community a critical interest in rigorous enforcement of requirements for qualifying measures for the ballot. These interests are not merely theoretical. A recent case in Montgomery County, Maryland, demonstrates the reality of petition fraud, the importance of public oversight, and the way that such fraud deprives the public of its right to self-governance. After the council extended an anti-discrimination ordinance to protect people from discrimination based on their gender identity, the Board of Elections certified a petition to repeal the ordinance, thereby suspending its effect and leaving transgender persons without legal resource. Only after the involvement of citizens who challenged the sufficiency of the signatures was it revealed that many of the signatures were “questionable” in their authenticity, including some that may have been “patently counterfeit.” The Maryland Court of Appeals ultimately held that the petition should not have been certified and that the Board had improperly counted thousands of signatures that failed to meet state requirements. This fraud would have gone undetected if left to State officials alone, and it temporarily succeeded in denying transgender persons the legal protections they had won through the political process.
Public access to petition records also allows the public to detect fraud where support for a measure is attributed to voters who did not sign or intend to sign the petition in question. In 2006 in Massachusetts, the State Attorney General’s office launched a criminal investigation after disclosure of records from a petition to prohibit same-sex marriage prompted complaints by “more than 2,000” people who discovered that their signature had been improperly attributed to the petition, either because of forgery or because the nature of the petition had been misrepresented to them.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is one of the best-known and well-funded anti-gay advocacy groups in the nation. This lawsuit in Washington State has been only one of many filed by these affiliated groups in courts and election committees in state after state, using the same attorneys and the same arguments. They promote ballot measures, drive legislative efforts and support candidate campaigns all with the stated goal of eliminating legal rights and protections for LGBT Americans. Then they initiate litigation to attempt to overturn public records and finance disclosure laws designed to provide information to the public and to ensure the integrity of elections. Since 2009, NOM has been involved in no fewer than seven lawsuits in state and federal courts or before state ethics boards to block the disclosure of its campaign donors. NOM has not just attempted to roll back disclosure laws in the states, it has also purposefully failed to disclose the identities of its campaign donors, oftentimes in violation of the law, triggering state-level investigations, court cases and appeals.
NOM’s anti-disclosure efforts have failed in case after case under claims that their supporters face threats and harassment, as they are attempting to argue here. NOM has unsuccessfully challenged disclosure laws in Maine, Minnesota, New York, California, Rhode Island, and Iowa. In 2009 a federal court rejected NOM’s suit in California attempting to block the disclosure of donors to the group’s campaign in favor of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that rolled back the California Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality, noting that “disclosure… prevents the wolf from masquerading in sheep’s clothing.” The federal court in reviewing claims of possible harassment, pointed out that “numerous of the acts about which [they] complain are mechanisms relied upon, both historically and lawfully, to voice dissent… This court cannot condemn those who have legally exercised their own constitutional rights in order to display their dissatisfaction with [NOM’s] cause.” NOM is still arguing that the video tape of the Proposition 8 trial proceedings should not be made public.
In New York they wanted to run ads in support of a candidate for Governor in 2010 but didn’t want to make donors’ names public. The U.S. District Court rejected NOM’s position. Last September, NOM sued the state of Rhode Island to keep its donors secret, arguing the state’s restrictions on political advertising and campaign finance disclosure requirements were unconstitutional and overly broad. A district judge disagreed, and the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court judge’s ruling. The First Circuit Courts upheld the Maine Ethics Commission requiring the application of those states’ disclosure laws to NOM’s anti-gay marriage campaign spending in 2009. The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board ruled that NOM must abide by state disclosure laws after a federal court rejected NOM’s appeal in 2011. A state board in Iowa informed NOM in 2009 that it would have to disclose its donors after the group sent a nationwide email to supporters asking for donations to be used in a ballot campaign against gay marriage in the state with a helpful reminder: “best of all, NOM has the ability to protect donor identities.”
NOM is well financed and well entrenched in the electoral process in their efforts to allow national and out-of-state interests to influence elections, ballot measures, and referenda without having to disclose information to the public. The group pulled in more than $7 million in 2009, according to their 2009 nonprofit status filing. Despite their efforts, disclosure has been uniformly required across the country for federal, state and local campaigns as a vital means to ensure that elections are conducted transparently and fairly.
As Washington State continues to use the initiative process with great frequency, the ability to access petition records as a means to ensure fair and honest elections remains important for the electoral process. Disclosure is essential to ensure a fair and open public debate. Regardless of the issue, full disclosure ensures that voters have the best available information and that elections are conducted with legitimacy and accountability. The history of fraud and mistake in the ballot process should teach us that electoral processes need to be more, not less, transparent.
And that is why today we will be back in federal court.
Anne Levinson chaired the Approve 71 campaign to defeat the attempted repeal of the State’s comprehensive domestic partnership law. She was one of Washington State’s first openly LGBT public officials, serving as a judge, as chair of the State’s public utilities commission, and as legal counsel to the Mayor, Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor in the City of Seattle.
The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a major campaign disclosure case that tests whether the Constitution protects the anonymity of people who sign petitions to get an initiative on the ballot.
The fight for marriage rights for gay couples will reach the United States Supreme Court in April 2010—sort of. The Court will hear arguments challenging Washington state’s Public Records Act, which was broadly approved by a voter initiative in 1972 as part of a campaign to increase transparency and openness in the state’s government and elections.
Idaho has much at stake in Washington’s big U.S. Supreme Court case over whether referendum petition signatures should be public or not. “Our initiative and referendum statute is very similar to Washington’s and Oregon’s,” said Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, at whose request Idaho joined 22 other states in filing “friend of the court” briefs backing Washington’s position – that the signatures remain public.
In a locked government office, in boxes, are petitions signed by 138,000 people that gave voters the final say on a controversial gay-rights law last year.
The U.S. Supreme Court this week will hear a Washington state case that could decide whether signing a petition for a ballot measure is a private, political act or whether the names of those signers can be made public.
If you thought things have gotten bad with campaign financing since the Supreme Court turned on the corporate money spigot in the Citizens United case, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
In the run-up to the U.S. Supreme Court’s April 28 hearing on public release of initiative and referendum petitions, the state is underscoring that the voter-approved Public Records Act requires release. The public’s demand for transparency and accountability of the government is “compelling and substantial,” attorneys for the Secretary of State said in a brief submitted to the high court on Thursday.
In its second surprise move in a week, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, January 15, announced it would review another narrow dispute involving anti-gay activists’ alleged fear of harassment over their public opposition to legal recognition for same-sex relationships.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge of Washington’s practice of releasing initiative and referendum petitions under the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act.
There’s no suspense – Washington voters last month approved Referendum 71 upholding the state’s new “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law, and trounced Tim Eyman’s latest ballot measure, Initiative 1033 dealing with revenue limits and property tax relief. The statewide and county-by-county numbers have been posted since election night.
Members of Snohomish County Gay Men’s Task Force (GMTF) and others gathered at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett on December 3 to thank all Washington State voters who helped approve Referendum 71.
On Thursday, it will be 30 days since Election Day. Big deal, you say? It is a big deal.
Washington’s new “everything-but-marriage” law, recently approved by voters, will take effect on Thursday, providing expanded rights and responsibilities for domestic partners on the state registry operated by the state Corporations and Charities Division.
Since Washington voters approved Referendum 71 on November 3, the state has seen an uptick in registrations of new domestic partners. “There have been an average of 90 registrations a week since the election; the weekly average has traditionally been 35 to 40 new registrations,” reports the Secretary of State’s office.
Washington’s new “everything-but-marriage” law, recently approved by voters, will take effect on Thursday, providing expanded rights and responsibilities for domestic partners on the state registry operated by the state Corporations and Charities Division.
In just 6 short weeks the Approve 71 Campaign engaged Washington voters in a conversation that lead to the historic vote to approve Referendum 71 to keep the domestic partnership law, on November 3, 2009.
A coalition of over 500 organizations came together in one of Washington’s shortest elections ever. Over 200 hundred faith based communities stood up for Washington’s lesbian, gay, and senior families. Major employers like Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Google sent a strong message that they value all their employees.
Washington state voters have approved Referendum 71, keeping a law that expands state benefits for registered same-sex and some senior domestic partners.
The tally late Thursday afternoon saw the vote to approve R-71 leading about 52 percent to 48 percent.
While gay-rights activists mourn their loss in Maine, they should not discount the projected victory of Referendum 71 in Washington state. If the measure passes, the Evergreen State will be the first to approve gay equality by direct will of the people, rather than the court or legislature.
Supporters of gay rights were buoyed by first-day returns that showed Referendum 71 leading by a narrow margin Tuesday evening.
Buoyed by big support from King County, voters Tuesday were approving Washington’s new “everything but marriage” law that greatly expands the rights of gay couples.
Washington voters on Tuesday were narrowly approving the state’s new “everything but marriage” law that is a significant expansion of rights for gay couples.
Voters have been sending in their ballots at a much slower rate than forecast, as King County wraps up its first vote-by-mail general election today.
Today is Election Day — the last day voters can cast ballots that were mailed to them on Oct. 14.
Election Day arrives in Jefferson County and across the state today, ending nearly three weeks of balloting in the all-mail election. The county returned a total of 10,543 ballots as of Monday, the county Auditor’s Office reported.
It’s Election Day in Washington and Idaho. Although the 2009 elections may not have as many momentous decisions as last year, voters are being asked to decide a range of local races and issues.
Tuesday is Election Day in Washington and Idaho.
Ballots are due Tuesday in a general election that includes two ballot measures, rare off-year state representative races in the 9th and 16th legislative districts, as well as nonpartisan races for city councils, school boards, port commissions and other local bodies.
For the Approve 71 campaign, the largest donation of $100,000 came from Microsoft but the average contribution is less than $250, spokesman Josh Friedes said. That’s because more than 5,000 individuals have donated, he said. …For those urging voters to reject the referendum, fundraising from individuals has been difficult.
On the ballot: Statewide votes on domestic partnership expansion and government growth limits, dozens of races for county, city, school district and other offices.
Referendum 71, a proposal to extend more legal protections to domestic partners in Washington State, has been nicknamed “everything but marriage.”
Washington state’s slow-but-steady approach to increasing rights and benefits to gay and lesbian couples hit its first snag just as the three-year process appeared to be complete.
Thurston County voters are hanging on to their ballots, but Auditor Kim Wyman is sticking with her prediction of 60 percent to 61 percent turnout in Tuesday’s vote-by-mail election.
On November 3 the nation will know the fate of the more than 6,000 registered same-sex domestic partnerships in Washington State.
Washington students voted in favor of Referendum 71’s gay-rights expansion and against Initiative 1033’s controls on government revenue growth in a mock election reported today by the Office of the Secretary of State.
With more than 24 percent of the county’s ballots returned as of Thursday, Yakima County Auditor Corky Mattingly’s prediction of 53 percent voter participation in Tuesday’s election remains within reach.
The Washington Bus, a two-year-old non-profit group dedicated to supporting and training young people to engage in state politics, is at it again this year — going door-to-door to request not your treats, but your votes.
Tacoma City Council has weighed in on a hot-button measure on the state ballot this year, one putting rights for domestic partners up for a public vote. On Oct. 20 eight members voted for a resolution endorsing approval of Referendum 71, with Councilmember Mike Lonergan abstaining.
Opponents of stronger legal partnerships for gay couples must abide by Washington state’s campaign finance laws while a lawsuit challenging those laws’ constitutional footing moves ahead, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
Stephen Colbert on Referendum 71 and the effort to make secret the names of those who signed the petitions.
A year after Seattleites danced for their “Change” candidate, a Republican may take over the county, the state could vote anti-gay, and local governments could go broke.
The time to vote is now. Last week, registered voters from around the state received a General Election voter ballot, and although this is an off-year election, the stakes for LGBT Washingtonians – and some seniors – have never been higher.
Supporters of Referendum 71– which would preserve the domestic partnership law for gays and lesbians — released an internal poll showing the measure leading slightly.
Starbucks added its name to the list of major Northwest employers who support referendum 71, which would uphold Washington law that extends marriage-like benefits to gay, lesbian and some senior couples.
Playing out in the opposite corner of the continental United States is a political campaign that would look very familiar to the voters of California.
Opponents of Referendum 71 swerved off the road to victory onto the shoulder toward defeat this week.
Thurston County election workers say they expect voter turnout in the Nov. 3 election to be at least 60 percent, the highest for an odd-year election since 1999.
Will Washington state extend or roll back the civil rights of same-sex partners that were granted by the Legislature this year? That is the question Referendum 71 will ask voters in the Nov. 3 election.
While opposition to R-71 has been largely driven by religious conservatives, and much attention has been paid to their efforts, there are also many people of faith who support the referendum.
The Wenatchee World asked several local clergy to share their opinions on the referendum. Two agreed. Their positions — one to approve, one to reject — may help you decide how you’ll cast your vote.
Will Washington state extend or roll back the civil rights of same-sex partners that were granted by the Legislature this year? That is the question Referendum 71 will ask voters in the Nov. 3 election.
King County has moved entirely to a Vote by Mail system. Watch this video to learn more about the system and what it means for you.
This week’s Q&A is with Anne Levinson, chair of the Approve Referendum 71 campaign. I talked to her about why she’s in favor of the referendum and some things she wants to clear up about it.
The Libertarian Party of Washington has endorsed the “Approve” Referendum 71 position.
Karin Mitchell is on a diet. Well, she has to be, Mitchell says. She’s got a big event coming up. Mitchell and her partner are planning a commitment ceremony after living together in Mukilteo for nearly four years. They want to celebrate their love while ensuring they’ll have the same rights as a married couple under the law.
Sixteen people took to the streets of Longview on Monday afternoon, calling for the approval of Referendum 71 to maintain the rights of same-sex couples with domestic partnerships.
Claire Fulenwider and Harriet Forman found their Vancouver dream house tucked into a forested bower in West Minnehaha one year ago.
As the vote on Referendum 71 approaches, a local Walla Walla couple hopes their story will be an example to fellow Washingtonians as to the importance of the legislation’s approval.
One side is fighting for what it believes are basic civil rights for gay and some elderly couples, and the other is fighting against what it sees as the degradation of morality and an eventual erosion the institution of marriage.
Will Washington state extend or roll back the civil rights of same-sex partners that were granted by the Legislature this year? That is the question Referendum 71 asks voters in the Nov. 3 election.
Referendum 71 is the biggest civil rights issue placed in the hands of Washington voters since an anti-affirmative action measure reached the ballot a decade ago.
With the November election approaching, some Whitman students are working hard to educate the campus about Referendum 71.
Coming on the heels of a $100,000 donation last week from Microsoft, the company’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, and co-founder Bill Gates have each donated $25,000 to the campaign to retain the latest expansion of the state’s domestic partnership law.
While West Seattle voters learn more about Seattle’s two mayoral candidates, Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan, some area politicians and activists say the bigger struggle is informing the public about the statewide Referendum 71, or R-71, which will also be on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
In a fairly unsurprising session, City Council members passed resolutions opposing a government revenue-restricting initiative from Tim Eyman and backing a domestic partnership law.
A small crowd of UW students gathered outside Schmitz Hall yesterday en route to Volunteer Park and, eventually, the courthouse. They carried signs that read: “We’re Here 4 Queer” and “Straight But Not Narrow.”
More than 1,000 people turned out Sunday for a rally in downtown Seattle to support Referendum 71, which would uphold Washington’s “Everything But Marriage” law. *Editor’s note: WAFST works to preserve the law for all domestic partners, including heterosexual couples.
City Council members will consider resolutions that address a state election initiative and a referendum during a Monday, Oct. 12, meeting. One is a resolution offered up by Councilwoman Barbara Ryan that would have the council supporting an approval of state Referendum 71, which would enact a domestic partnership bill nicknamed the “everything but marriage” law.
By this time next week, Washingtonians will have received their ballots asking whether or not they want to keep the state’s domestic partnership law, which grants the same rights and responsibilities for registered same-sex domestic partners and some seniors as married couples.
The scenario that gay-rights advocates had feared may be coming true. Vote Reject R-71, a political action committee, registered with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission yesterday to campaign against Referendum 71, thereby attempting to repeal the state’s domestic-partnership law.
Evangelical Christian Brent Childers explains his journey from believing that homosexuality was an abomination to marching in a pro-gay march on Washington.
Religious conservatives have put together their first video ads against Referendum 71’s expansion of rights for registered domestic partners in Washington.
Microsoft Corp. has donated $100,000 to Washington Families Standing Together, the campaign seeking through Referendum 71 to retain the latest expansion of the state’s domestic partnership law, up for a public vote on Nov. 3.
Much of the debate over legalizing gay marriage has focused on God and Scripture, the Constitution and equal protection. But we see the world through the prism of money. And for years, we’ve heard from gay couples about all the extra health, legal and other costs they bear. So we set out to determine what they were and to come up with a round number — a couple’s lifetime cost of being gay.
Religious conservatives are telling voters that Referendum 71 is the last chance to stop those who would legalize gay marriage, while their opponents try to keep the debate focused on domestic partnerships — something that to many voters is still unfamiliar.
In this colorful Special Section, find articles on the status of the campaign and campaign happenings; what you can do to help Approve Ref. 71; and messages of active support and solidarity from our community, clergy, elected officials, candidates and businesses.
The Washington state labor movement plans to devote significant resources to winning approval for Referendum 71.
Steve Doty and Linda Dunbar are a senior–citizen couple. They live in North Seattle and they’ve been together a long time. They’ve seen each other through her breast cancer and his Parkinson’s Disease. But they’re not married. Steve and Linda would be directly affected by Referendum 71. It’s a measure that’s going to be on the Washington state ballot November 3.
Thurston County Democrats have weighed in formally with several local races this fall. …Thurston County Democrats, as well as the 22nd Legislative Democrats, voted to support the ‘Yes on Approve 71′ referendum, and reject Initiative 1033.
The Tacoma Public Library and the League of Women Voters of Tacoma-Pierce County will sponsor a public forum on several ballot measures tonight.
Alisha knows what’s going on. She’s been involved in local political causes, has worked with various nonprofits, and is generally an engaged citizen. But when I told my old friend at the park on a recent Sunday about an upcoming debate on Referendum 71, she gave me a vacant look.
The battle to protect Washington State’s same-sex domestic partnership law gained momentum this week as Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST), the Gay advocacy group in charge of the Approve Referendum 71 Campaign, spoke directly to the LGBT community and joined forces with some of the Pacific Northwest’s biggest businesses in solidarity to approve R-71.
Seattle mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan — who took some heat during the primaries over T-Mobile’s low ranking by a gay rights organization – emailed supporters Thursday morning urging Seattle voters to approve Referendum 71. Ed. note: Straight seniors are also getting domestic partnerships to protect their families.
Some of the Northwest’s largest employers today announced support for the Approve Referendum 71 campaign, which seeks to uphold state law extending marriage-like benefits to gay, lesbian and some senior couples. … In a joint statement, The Boeing Company, Nike, Microsoft Corp., Puget Sound Energy, RealNetworks and Vulcan Development said the law does not “sanction or encourage same-sex marriage … but recognizes that, regardless of their sexual orientation, people may enter into partnerships and create family units that deserve respect and equal treatment.
John Boehrer and Lynn Elmore registered as domestic partners shortly after state law first allowed it two years ago because they wanted to be able to make critical decisions about one another’s care, if it ever comes to that. Together eight years and both in their 60s, they’ve chosen not to marry in part because Elmore, who is divorced, would lose certain benefits.
An attempt to block a statewide vote on expanded benefits for domestic partners is back in court next week. Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee will hear arguments Tuesday afternoon in a lawsuit brought by Washington Families Standing Together.
Washington Families Standing Together is the coalition trying to save the state’s new domestic partnership law and keep R-71 off the ballot. The group has won the right to analyze the R-71 petitions for errors. Spokeswoman Anne Levinson says she’s convinced that Secretary of State Sam Reed improperly certified the Referendum for the November ballot.
*Editor’s note: WAFST works to preserve the law for all domestic partners, including heterosexual couples.
A new report from University of Washington researchers shows that support for expanding the rights of domestic partnerships in the state has grown, and the support appears to be widespread.
Secretary of State Sam Reed may have accepted tens of thousands of invalid signatures before he certified a November referendum on expanding domestic partnership benefits, a King County judge said Wednesday.
Potential good news for backers of the “everything but marriage law” that voters will be asked to uphold or reject in November through Referendum 71. The Washington Poll released a report today showing public support for same-sex domestic partnerships has increased substantially over the past three years.
A new analysis by University of Washington researchers indicates that Evergreen State voters may be ready to approve “everything but marriage” domestic partnerships, assuming Referendum 71 goes to a vote in November.
The Columbia City Bakery has just announced that, starting this Saturday and lasting up until the election, it will be selling heart-shaped shortbread cookies to raise money for Washington Families Standing Together.
In the race for King County executive, Dow Constantine has tried to paint Susan Hutchison as a conservative whose values are out of sync with local voters. But when it comes to Referendum 71, the November referendum on the state’s “everything but marriage” law, Constantine and Hutchison agree.
A group supporting Washington’s expanded gay-rights law has sued the secretary of state in an attempt to keep Referendum 71 from qualifying for the November ballot. Washington Families Standing Together says it’s concerned the Secretary of State’s Office has accepted signatures that should have been rejected for the referendum, which seeks to put the domestic-partnership law up for a public vote.
*Editor’s note: WAFST works to preserve the law for all domestic partners, including heterosexual couples.
Tens of thousands of signatures accepted by elections officials for anti-gay Referendum 71 are invalid and can’t be credited toward qualifying the petition for the November ballot, says a lawsuit filed yesterday against Secretary of State Sam Reed.
*Editor’s note: WAFST works to preserve the law for all domestic partners, including heterosexual couples.
For a month, rotating teams of gay-rights supporters and opponents have crowded into a basement room, watching as state workers check every signature on a referendum that seeks to overturn the latest expansion of gay rights.
The verification process of the more than 137,000 signatures Protect Marriage Washington turned in to the Secretary of State’s office July 25 has now entered its fourth week. The Secretary of State’s initial count is expected by the end of the month….Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST) Chair Anne Levinson spoke with SGN regarding her organization’s views on the signature verification process, as well as the direction WAFST will take should R-71 make the ballot.
The Washington Secretary of State provides updates and information on the Referendum 71 signature verification process. Check out their site:
…What may be the hottest issue in the November election – if it goes to voters – came before the 34th District Democrats at meeting’s end. State Sen. Joe McDermott (no relation to the congressmember) asked for a “suspension of the rules” to enable an early, unscheduled endorsement of Referendum 71 – if it makes the ballot. A “yes” vote would validate the domestic-partnership rights bill passed by the Legislature. …After agreeing to suspend the rules for this motion, members endorsed the potential “yes on 71″ by a unanimous voice vote.
On Sunday, July 26, a mere 24 hours following the collection of signatures in Olympia to place the domestic partnership initiative Referendum 71 on the Nov. 3 ballot, West Seattle residents Matthew Darling and Ray Burley got “hitched” at a reception at the Feedback Lounge in Morgan Junction. The happy couple did not wait around for the final vote* count, which may take well over a week to total. And regardless of its outcome, same-sex marriage will still not be legally recognized in Washington. *Ed., petition signature count
Washington state officials are ready to verify signatures for a proposed referendum on Washington state’s newly expanded domestic partnership law. Secretary of State Sam Reed said Thursday that supporters of Referendum 71 turned in 137,689 signatures, about 14 percent more than the minimum needed to win a place on the November ballot. The average historic error rate is 18 percent.
If Christian conservatives succeed in putting gay rights up to a public vote this November, allowing voters to reverse a gay-rights bill that passed in spring, there’s one explanation for how they did it: They lied. Campaigners have insisted that domestic partnerships are actually gay marriage (less popular in polls) and that equal rights will require teaching public-school children about “graphic gay sex practices.” They even tricked gay-marriage supporters into signing the petition.
Six of the eight candidates for King County executive primary race gathered for a forum July 28 in Federal Way. Susan Hutchison, Fred Jarrett, Ross Hunter, Larry Phillips, Dow Constantine and Alan Lodbell stated their views for voters from South King County at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel. …All six candidates said they did not sign Referendum 71, a controversial petition seeking to overturn the expansion of domestic partnership rights in Washington state.
When the state passed a law in 2007 creating domestic partnerships, Michele Gaynor and Nina Perry registered the first day the state accepted applications. They lived together in a South Kitsap development, but their three-bedroom home off Sedgwick Road was in Gaynor’s name. The two had married in Canada in 2004, but that marriage wasn’t recognized by Washington state, leaving Perry vulnerable if something happened to Gaynor. “Her next of kin — of course they love me, but they could take the house away from me,” Perry said.
Sponsors of a campaign to overturn the state’s recent “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law turned in their petition signatures Saturday and said they believe they have enough to force a public vote.
That’s the upshot today as Christian activists turned in stacks of petition signatures at the Office of the Secretary of State for Referendum 71.
Washington state’s latest expansion of domestic partnerships for gay couples was hanging in limbo Friday as opponents announced a final push to force a public vote, calling their effort so far “too close to call.” In a statement to supporters, organizers of the Referendum 71 campaign said they should have the minimum 120,577 petition signatures needed by Saturday to qualify for the ballot. But R-71 organizer Gary Randall also said the campaign doesn’t have enough extra signatures to act as a cushion for erroneous or duplicate petition signatures, which must come from registered Washington voters.
After opponents of gay rights kicked off an effort this summer to repeal Washington’s new “everything but marriage” law, gay rights backers in Clark County have found an unusual champion. It’s the YWCA, the nonprofit group that describes its goal as “Eliminating racism, empowering women.”
Sadly, in this world full of emails and instant messages, text messages and status updates, MySpace bulletins and Twitter tweets, it’s something I rarely do anymore. Stop dead in my tracks to take note of a show flyer…The words etched on the blue flyer were straight and to the point — Band Together Tacoma, Saturday, July 25 at The New Frontier Lounge, presented by Tacoma Social Justice. …Currently, [Tacoma Social Justice is] mounting opposition to Referendum 71, which — if it garners enough signatures and is placed on the ballot — aims to eliminate Washington’s Domestic Partnership Expansion Law of 2009. That possibility, for our state’s gay community and beyond, is the very definition of social INJUSTICE. It’s situations like these that Tacoma Social Justice was built for.
Chehalis resident Michelle Watson sat along Louisiana Avenue near the Twin City Town Center Monday among friends, family and signs, all of which were beckoning passing motorists to embrace civility in the ongoing debate over the so-called “everything but marriage” act. The demonstration, attended by about a dozen local women and their children, was a reaction to a run-in with a paid petition gatherer for Referendum 71, Watson said.
What’s more, an issue around which Christian conservatives might be expected to find consensus — repealing a measure that gave same-sex domestic partners the same state benefits as married couples — instead has provoked infighting.
Kitsap Pride organizers said this year’s pride festival holds special significance. It marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a series of violent demonstrations against a bar raid by New York City police that is considered the beginning of the modern gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights movement. “Look at how far we’ve come in 40 years, and look how far we haven’t come,” Kitsap Pride co-chairwoman Marcie Mathis said. The 13th annual Kitsap Pride event will take place Saturday at Evergreen-Rotary Park in Bremerton, with music, food and games from 12 to 5 p.m.
Mother Nature threatened, but she just couldn’t rain on this year’s Bellingham Pride parade on Sunday, July 12. This is the third year for the pride parade in Bellingham, though the festival has existed in some form for about nine years. With about 40 entrants – including the Rainbow City Band, PFLAG and Western Washington University students – the parade has nearly tripled in size from last year, with a goal of celebrating local gay, lesbian and transgendered people.
Bruce Hermansson sat next to his partner in Tacoma’s Wright Park on Saturday, enjoying the singers, dancers and a sense of freedom at Pierce County’s annual celebration of gay pride. “Just seeing everybody out” is a highlight of Out in the Park, Hermansson of Lakewood said. “You can feel comfortable. If you want to hold your partner’s hand you can because nobody’s going to say anything.” Hundreds of people flocked to Wright Park in Tacoma for the 12th annual Out in the Park. …“It’s a play time, a recognition time for those of us who are working for our civil rights,” [Gloria] Stancich said.
Forty years after New York’s Stonewall Riots launched the gay-rights movement, older gays and younger ones share much the same agenda of equality. But their needs within the movement are also divergent.
Thousands of parade-goers cheered nearly 200 groups marching down Fourth Avenue Sunday in Seattle’s Pride Parade 2009. Spectators and marchers alike talked about marriage equality in the face of a referendum to repeal a recent measure expanding the state’s domestic partnership law.
SEATTLE – Thousands of people turned out for Seattle’s gay pride parade on Sunday. It was a chance for the gay community to show they are strong and proud and they are willing to fight for equal rights.
In planning a commitment ceremony rather than a wedding, they are standing up for what they see as the right of all adults in loving relationships to marry, regardless of partners’ gender. They say they’ll boycott marriage until gay friends and loved ones can be joined in legal marriages, which they see as a civil right.
Reporting from Seattle — A campaign to roll back gay rights that kicked off in Washington state over the weekend has split the Christian conservative community, with some wondering whether it is the right time for a fight and others arguing that time may be running out.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Oct 17, 2011
Statement of Anne Levinson, Chair, Washington Families Standing Together
Federal Court Judge Orders Release of Referendum 71 Petitions
Ruling Upholds State’s Public Records Act
Today, Federal District Judge Benjamin Settle, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled that Protect Marriage Washington (PMW), an affiliate of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM), was not entitled to an exemption from the Public Records Act and that Referendum 71 petitions must be made available to the public by the Secretary of State. The case, Doe v. Reed, stemmed from the 2009 Referendum 71 campaign.
PMW had sponsored Referendum 71 in an attempt to repeal the state’s domestic partnership law. As PMW turned in petitions to get the measure on the ballot, they also filed suit to keep their petitions from being released to the public by the Secretary of State. Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST), the group that led the effort to keep the domestic partnership law from being repealed, had made a public disclosure request in order to review the petitions so that it could determine whether there were sufficient legal signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. Voters had contacted WAFST with concerns that that they had been misled into signing petitions and observers had noted other problems with some petitions, including some signers who were not registered voters.
Under Washington State law, anyone who disagrees with the determination of the Secretary of State that an initiative or referendum has the necessary number of signatures of legal voters to qualify it for the ballot may challenge that determination in court. The only way to do that is to have access to the petitions in order to review them for fraud or mistake. Without being able to inspect the petition sheets, there is no way for citizens or organizations to make sure ballot measures that don’t legally qualify are kept off the ballot, as the law allows.
“Providing the public information about signers of petitions and contributors to campaigns serves important public education and anti-fraud goals for elections. The Court’s ruling today is a victory for all those who care about ensuring fair and legitimate elections. Had the Court agreed that these ballot measure petitions could be kept secret because the referendum’s sponsors were bothered by some who voiced opposition to their point of view, it would have set a terrible precedent for future elections.” said Anne Levinson, chair of WAFST.
PMW had argued that those who oppose equal rights for gay and lesbian families would be harassed and intimidated if petitions were public information. They and their allies made similar arguments about public disclosure of the names of contributors to their campaign committee, but lost that battle as well.
“The irony should not go unnoticed that these right-wing groups promote divisive measures and then demand a special right to secrecy because the strong disagreement that follows makes them uncomfortable. Yet these same groups and individuals who say they may be harmed by the public having information about an election are never troubled that the very laws they try to get passed through these campaigns result in real harm to LGBT individuals and families. These groups sponsor measures with an agenda of taking away rights and then sue with exaggerated tales of victimization in an effort to hide from public view and to take away the ability of those who stand up against them to protect themselves and their fellow citizens. The Court found that the assertions they made here were no more valid than they have been in any other state where they have tried the same arguments,” Levinson added.
Referendum 71 was on the ballot in November, 2009. More than 53% of voters voted to approve retaining the domestic partnership law, making Washington the first state in the country to vote affirmatively in support of comprehensive relationship recognition for LGBT families.
From the Court’s ruling:
” Doe has not and cannot with any credibility analogize their situation to that of a small group of rank and file members of the [Socialist Workers Party] or the NAACP.” Page 15.
“Doe has not supplied competent evidence or adequate authority to support its claim that the R-71 signers constitute a fringe organization with unpopular or unorthodox beliefs or one that is seeking to further ideas that have been ‘historically and pervasively rejected and vilified by both this country’s government and its citizens.’”
“[N]o doubt the majority of people who signed an R-71 petition did so in a public place or forum and could have been contacted by mass publication or other means to obtain their testimony as to any threats, harassment or reprisals they had experienced in connection to their signing of the petition. However, no such evidence exists in the record before the Court.”
“Doe has failed to supply sufficient, competent evidence that the publically known donors–as active supporters of R-71–have experienced sufficient threats, harassment, or reprisals based on the disclosure of their information in connection to R-71 that would satisfy the reasonable probability standard that Doe must meet in this case.”
“Doe has only supplied evidence that hurts rather than helps its case.” Page 32.
“Doe asked the Court to grant an exemption to the PRA based on a few experiences of what Doe believes constitutes harassment or threats, the majority of which are only connected to R-71 by speculation. If Doe’s position were correct, then . . . anyone could prevail under such a standard in the context of referenda, which are often heated, regardless of the subject
matter. Indeed, if a group could succeed in an as-applied challenge to the PRA by simply providing a few isolated incidents of profane or indecent statements, gestures, or other examples of uncomfortable conversations that are not necessarily even related or directly connected to the issue at hand, disclosure would become the exception rather than the rule.” Page 32-33.
Federal District Court to Rule on Release of Signatures
Lawsuit challenging State’s Public Records Act stemmed from Referendum 71
Contact: Anne Levinson, Chair, Washington Families Standing Together
Today, Judge Settle of the Western District of Washington will hear oral argument in Doe v. Reed, which stemmed from the 2009 Referendum 71 campaign. Protect Marriage Washington (PMW), an affiliate of the national anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM), had promoted R-71 in an effort to repeal the state’s recently enacted domestic partnership law. Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST) led the effort to keep the law. In November 2009, 53.15% of voters approved retaining the domestic partnership law, making Washington the first state in the country to vote affirmatively in support of comprehensive relationship recognition for LGBT families.
From the moment PMW began collecting signatures, they also began a well-choreographed effort to circumvent the State’s public disclosure laws. They argued to the public disclosure commission while their allies argued to federal district court that they should not be required to report who was contributing to their campaign and in what amounts. As they turned in their petition signatures to qualify for the ballot, they also filed suit in yet another courtroom seeking a temporary restraining order blocking the Secretary of State from releasing the referendum petitions pursuant to the State’s Public Records Act (PRA), as has been the routine practice of the State. The district court blocked the release of the petitions. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling, “A [s]tate indisputably has a compelling interest in preserving the integrity of the election process… In Washington, the PRA plays a key role in preserving the integrity of the referendum process by serving a government accountability and transparency function not sufficiently served by the statutory scheme governing the referendum process. Without the PRA, the public is effectively deprived of the opportunity independently to examine whether the State properly determined that a referendum qualified, or did not qualify, for the general election.”
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed. In an 8-1 decision, authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court upheld the State’s disclosure laws. Justice Roberts wrote that disclosing the names of signers can prevent fraud and promote open government, “Public disclosure thus helps ensure that the only signatures counted are those that should be, and that the only referenda placed on the ballot are those that garner enough valid signatures,” Roberts wrote. “Public disclosure also promotes transparency and accountability in the electoral process to an extent other measures cannot.”
PMW then went back to federal court where WAFST, the State and the Washington Coalition for Open Government continued to oppose its argument that the Referendum 71 petitions warranted an exception. After more than a year of proceedings, the judge decided in September, as WAFST had argued, that a trial was not warranted and he will instead rule based on the law after tomorrow’s hearing.
WAFST’s position is that there are no facts to support PMW’s repeated assertions of threatened harassment and intimidation that warrant non-disclosure. It has become routine for groups like PMW and NOM to complain that public disclosure will make them vulnerable to threats and harassment. The evidence in state after state shows otherwise. Depositions and briefings in this case have only served to highlight that the allegations made here are no more valid than they have been in any other state where they have tried the same argument.
Twenty-three states use ballot initiatives and referenda to enact or retain legislation and also require the petitions be public records. Between 1997 and 2009, there were eighteen separate statewide initiatives and referenda to deny or repeal legal protections for gay and lesbian persons. There are presumably hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who signed petitions in the past decade supporting the inclusion of such measures on the ballot. And yet with the full force of numerous advocacy groups opposed to civil marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples devoted to this litigation, the anti-gay organizations have been unable to come up with even a single example of a voter who suffered retaliation or who was ‘chilled’ from signing a petition as a result. The anti-gay organizations, for all of their heated rhetoric, have simply failed to produce any such evidence. In fact, the identities of financial contributors, not just petitions signers, to Referendum 71 have been public on the State’s and other websites for two years. Nonetheless, there is no evidence that anyone who made a financial contribution to support PMW or R-71 has faced any threats, reprisals, or harassment.
“LGBT individuals continue to face significant violence, discrimination, and harassment, above and beyond anything these groups have alleged, let alone experienced. The irony should not go unnoticed that these groups foster heated debate by promoting divisive measures and then complain about the debate that follows when people’s basic legal rights are at stake. These same groups and individuals demanding secrecy have fought for years against laws that would protect LGBT individuals from very real harm – from bullying in school to hate crimes. Their creative narrative of victimization is not supported by the record before the Court. Exaggerated tales of victimization are used in an effort to take away one of the few defenses the gay and lesbian community has at its disposal to defend against hostile ballot initiatives: the use of public petition records to protect against the fraudulent qualification of such measures in the first place. When a party attempts to fill the record with frivolous and irrelevant material as PMW has done here, it is because they have neither the facts nor the law on their side,” said Anne Levinson, Chair of WAFST and a former judge.
WAFST sought to keep all records open, so that the public could know as much as possible when deciding how to vote. When it appeared that petitions used to qualify the measure for the ballot might be in violation of various statutory requirements, and the measure might be put on the ballot without the required number of registered voters having signed petitions, WAFST then made a public disclosure request for the petitions so that it could determine whether the Secretary of State had made any errors in concluding that certain signatures and petitions were valid.
“If the court were to rule that these petitions could be kept secret, it would take away an important tool that helps ensure accountable and legitimate elections in our state and set a terrible precedent for future campaigns, particularly those that engender robust debate. Washington’s Public Records Act and campaign disclosure laws help to ensure that elections, especially elections addressing fundamental constitutional rights, are conducted transparently and fairly,” Levinson said.
“As Washington State continues to use the initiative process with great frequency, ability to access petition records as a means to ensure fair and honest elections remains important for the electoral process. Regardless of the issue, full disclosure ensures that voters have the best available information and that elections are conducted with legitimacy and accountability. The history of fraud and mistake in the ballot process should teach us that electoral processes need to be more, not less, transparent,” she added.
Statement of Anne Levinson, Chair, Washington Families Standing Together in Response to U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Doe v. Reed
(note: WAFST led the Approve Referendum 71 campaign & is a respondent in Doe v. Reed)
The Court has made clear today that public disclosure requirements are an important means of making sure measures are not put on the ballot by fraudulent means or mistake.
“Public disclosure thus helps ensure that the only signatures counted are those that should be, and that the only referenda placed on the ballot are those that garner enough valid signatures. Public disclosure also promotes transparency and accountability in the electoral process to an extent other measures cannot. In light of the foregoing, we reject plaintiffs’ argument and conclude that public disclosure of referendum petitions in general is substantially related to the important interest of preserving the integrity of the electoral process.”
This 8- 1 ruling by the highest court in the land is a significant defeat for those who have sought to enshrine discrimination into law at the ballot box. Nowhere is the integrity and transparency of elections more important than where the ballot box is being used in an attempt to take away fundamental rights. Nowhere is it more important for the public to know that attempts to affect the lives of their fellow citizens by promoting ballot measures are free from fraud and error. Perhaps no other group has witnessed its rights put up for public vote more than LGBT Americans. Social conservatives have used ballot measures in state after state, over more than 30 years, to keep LGBT Americans from being able to adopt children, to marry and even to be protected from discrimination in housing and employment.
This is the third loss for these groups in our state over the past year as they tried to repeal legislation ensuring that all families are treated equally under Washington State law. First the State PDC said no when these same groups tried to hide their donors. Then voters approved Referendum 71, retaining the law, by more than 53%. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against the proponents’ attempt to undermine disclosure laws.
With regard to the assertion by the anti-gay groups that they would be harmed if petition signatures were subject to public disclosure, as Justice Stevens said in his concurring opinion,
“Any burden on speech that petitioners posit is speculative as well as indirect. For an as-applied challenge to a law such as the PRA to succeed, there would have to be a significant threat of harassment directed at those who sign the petition that cannot be mitigated by law enforcement measures.”
The Supreme Court has in the past allowed narrow exemptions to public disclosure where there’s a clear minority party that has suffered both official and societal retaliation by the majority and where there is strong evidence that such disclosure presents a serious threat. With regard to Referendum 71, however, the groups making this claim were not the minority, but to the contrary, were the ones trying to diminish the rights of the minority. They will be hard pressed to convince a judge the record here is otherwise.
In an amicus brief provided to the Supreme Court in Doe v. Reed, a group of political scientists reported that not only was the assertion of alleged harassment unsubstantiated in Washington State, but the plaintiffs did not present a single verified threat to any signer of a ballot measure petition in any state in any election. As their brief said, “More than a million names of signers of petitions for referenda and initiatives opposing gay marriage have been posted on the Internet, yet there is no evidence that any of these signers has faced any threat of retaliation or harassment by reason of that disclosure.”
WAFST applauds today’s decision and thanks all those who filed briefs and supported our collective efforts as we fought over the last year to protect the rights of all Washingtonians.
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!
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.
# # #
The Korean American Bar Association of Washington (“KABA”) endorses Referendum 71 as supported by Washington Families Standing Together (“WAFST”). In doing so, KABA supports extending equal civil rights to domestic partners. KABA stands by its members that identify with the GLBT community and encourages all KABA members to seek equal rights and fair treatment for all citizens.
The Approve 71 campaign today won an important victory in federal court when Federal District Court Judge Ronald Leighton turned down an effort by the Reject 71 campaign to eviscerate Washington’s voter-approved campaign finance laws.
Thirty-one organizations that represent and serve communities of color have endorsed Referendum 71 and are urging to voters to APPROVE Referendum 71 to support the state’s Domestic Partnership Law passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Gregoire earlier this year.
The Approve 71 campaign today released polling data that shows the campaign to protect all of Washington’s families and the state’s domestic partnership law promises to be a tough fight that hinges on strong voter turnout and broad voter contact.
Following certification of R-71 on Sept. 2, 2009, the Approve 71 campaign commissioned Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR) to conduct a statewide survey of voters likely to vote in Washington’s upcoming general election.
“We have seen over the years that an increasing majority of Washingtonians support equality under the law for all Washington families,” said Anne Levinson, Approve 71 campaign chair. “But we know that in an off-year
election voter turnout trends to older, more conservative voters, and as much as half of the general population won’t be voting, so we wanted to ask just likely voters about specific ballot language.”
The poll result numbers strongly suggest it will be a close election.
• When voters are read the exact ballot language, they divide 51 percent “approve” and 44 percent “reject.”
“The poll suggests the same trend we’ve seen across the country, the highest margins of support are among younger voters and those who vote less frequently, particularly urban voters,” Levinson said. “The R-71 election is likely to have a very narrow margin and since the measure was certified so late, we only have a few weeks to reach voters to explain what the domestic partnership law is and how it protects families. It is critical that those who support the law turn out to vote.”
Further complicating matters is the fact that when voters are unsure of what a measure is about, they tend to vote “no.” With R-71, supporters of domestic partnership law have the approve position.
“Every voter who cares about ensuring that all Washington families have equal protection under state law must talk to their friends and family about the importance of voting approve on R-71. Thousands of families across the state are counting on us,” Levinson said.
There are now more than 180 community and faith-based organizations, and tens of thousands of people supporting the Approve 71 campaign. Major employers in the region like Microsoft, Boeing, Vulcan, Nike, PSE,
RealNetworks and others have also endorsed the campaign. For a complete list of endorsements and information on the Approve 71 campaign, please visit approve71.org.
Sue Evans 253.592.1590 firstname.lastname@example.org
Josh Friedes 206.679.8546 email@example.com
SEATTLE, Wash. – According to the Secretary of State’s Office, Protect Marriage Washington, the conservative organization that has been collecting signatures in an attempt to repeal the Domestic Partnership Expansion Law of 2009, has collected sufficient signatures to meet the threshold for the Secretary of State to begin the process of signature validation. The group needs 120,577 valid signatures to qualify Referendum 71 for the November ballot, only about four percent of the state’s registered voters. The Secretary of State will scan all the petitions and by mid-week and then start verifying signatures.
SEATTLE, Wash. – More than 85 clergy, religious leaders from faith communities and faith-based organizations from all across Washington state, released a joint statement today to announce their strong support for the Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill of 2009, which is being threatened with repeal by Referendum 71.
“Although people have the right to believe what they’re called to believe, this right does not include the permission to impose those beliefs on others,” said The Rev. Michael Denton, Conference Minister, Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Church of Christ.
Broad, statewide support to keep domestic partnership law from being repealed by Referendum 71
SEATTLE, Wash. – Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST) announced today that in just eight weeks, tens of thousands of individuals and more than 110 organizations have joined together to protect Washington families from the threat posed by the attempted repeal of the state’s domestic partnership law.
Red, White and True: Families Working to Keep the Domestic Partnership Law from Being Repealed by Referendum 71 will Carry Old Glory in Seattle’s Pride Parade SEATTLE, Wash. – As thousands gather for this weekend’s Seattle Pride Parade to celebrate the diversity and progress of the LGBT community, members of Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST) will participate in the parade to show their strong support for keeping our state’s domestic partnership law from being repealed by Referendum 71.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s The Golden Rule. — Chris Farnam, Oak Harbor
Re: “Don’t be swayed by guilt trip arguments” (letter, 10-9). The writer dresses down gay and lesbianism as though it is a fashion statement, as if someone can discard the core of whom they are as easily as they drop their shirt in the secondhand collection bin. — David Bates, Tacoma
As I ponder the reactions of the opposition to Referendum 71, I recollect the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he was writing from jail in Birmingham. — Josette Parker, Lakewood
I believe opponents of Referendum 71 have run a campaign of fear. They would have us believe that dire consequences will result if R-71 is approved, including gay marriage and the collapse of civilization. — Ann Shannon, Bellingham
A recent analysis by the New York Times (Your Money, October 3, 2009) showed that it’s more expensive to be a gay or lesbian couple than a heterosexual couple. The difference was mainly in the benefits that go with marriage – especially the cost of health insurance, estate taxes, pension benefits, IRAs, and Social Security benefits. — Judy Stilts, Bellingham
I am a 52-year-old gay male who has lived in Washington for the past 24 years. I’m a retired Army officer who fell in love with my partner back in 1985 while stationed at Fort Lewis. — Paul Britt, Tacoma
This letter is addressed to those Washingtonians who, like me, are committed to living out their faith and support the rights of the nearly 12,000 registered domestic partners in our state. These are people who seek fair treatment and simply want the same legal protections so many others already enjoy. — Rev. Mark Dowdy, Senior Pastor, The United Churches of Olympia, Presbyterian (USA) and United Church of Christ
A warning: This article does not promote gay marriage. It remains a mystery what person and under whose instruction placed a stack of what the Protect Marriage Washington campaign calls its doorbell flier pamphlets, in the lobby of Coughlin Hall last week. — Edgar Loya, Gonzaga University
People are not guaranteed rights because they are black or white. People are not guaranteed rights because they are women or men. People are not guaranteed rights because they are gay or straight. People are guaranteed rights because they are individuals, because they are people. — Nate Clemons, Spokane
Last legislative session I proudly voted for Senate Bill 5688 – ensuring that all Washington families would be treated equally under state law, with the same protections and the same obligations as their neighbors. — State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Ballard
Are we so overburdened with happiness in this world that we need to take special measures to increase the unhappiness of any two adults who find comfort living in each other’s company? Joy to the world, folks. Joy to the world. Vote yes on Referendum 71. — William Breitenbach, Tacoma
When the American colonies declared independence, they also declared that all are created equal. Despite those bold words, anyone who wasn’t male, white and a property owner was not truly equal. — Kristin Gogerty, Puyallup
I would like to comment on the wonderfully written, compassionate, thoughtful letter in the Oct. 25 edition by Judi Edwards about Referendum 71. — Beverly Smith, Port Orchard
I am stunned by the hypocrisy of the reject R-71 campaign. They say that domestic partnership is a weighty issue that should not be decided by courts or the legislature. It must be put to a vote of the people – the best determiner of law. — Janis Walworth, Bellingham
The Protect Marriage Washington campaign has a video posted on its Web site that is so inaccurate it is funny. — Ty Stober, Vancouver
Please, give everyone the right to care for their loved ones. Please do not help to persecute those who have a different lifestyle. Please do not be afraid to bring about change. Fight for the freedom of all. — Elizabeth Carlson, Redmond
As we drive around Spokane, we see many signs to Reject Ref. 71. But I wonder, do people really know what they are rejecting? You are rejecting rights for normal families and their children. — Mary Layton, Spokane
First and foremost. I am a married mother of two children. With that said, I was driving home from work Saturday when I crossed over the Allen Street bridge to see a group of people. Protesters. Now, I realize that everyone has the wonderful right to do this; however, I was appalled at what they protested. — Mary Porter, Longview
Our state Legislature enacted new rights to a group who hadn’t had those rights before. However, a referendum was sought by those who thought the legislature was not upholding the current social mores. The year was 1889. The Legislature granted women the right to vote. Sadly, this right wasn’t upheld in a voter’s referendum. — Teresa Dominic, Olympia
Your vote to approve Referendum 71 is your statement that all families in Washington are to be treated equally and fairly. — Steering Committee, San Juan Island Chapter, ACLU of Washington
It was my partner of 26 years who helped me find the right word to describe the sensation we are both feeling: humiliation. For those fully integrated into society, it is difficult to imagine having both granted rights and the legitimacy of a committed relationship put up to a vote. — Daniel J Hinkley, Indianola
I was saddened to read the letter (SWR Oct 21) wherein W.F. of Clinton writes in opposition to R-71. No one is seeking special recognition or “subsidies” here; supporters of R-71 are seeking equal civil and human rights for our neighbors. — Hal Seligson, Langley
As parents of a gay son, we can provide reassurance to those who fear that approving Referendum 71 will lead to the “glorification” of an “addictive lifestyle” (letter, 10-24). — Gary Klauminzer and Eleanor Klauminzer, Gig Harbor
I am a lesbian living in Vancouver. I am the parent of two children, a grandparent and am “married” to my female partner. I work, go to church and love spending time with my family. The things I want in life are no different than any other parent, grandparent or married person. I want to take care of my family, and have the option for unpaid leave to take care of a critically ill partner. — Joslyn Baker, Vancouver
As the mother of a happily married gay man (married in Canada to his longtime partner), I cannot see how the passage of Referendum 71 could possibly do any harm to happily married heterosexual couples. — Helen Holt, Lakewood
Our founding fathers stated in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” — Michael T. Barr, Sammamish
Google has a reputation for actively participating in policy debates surrounding information access, technology and energy. However, we do not generally take positions on social, legal or political issues that arise beyond our normal, day-to-day business. With that said, there are issues that are so important and so clear cut that we feel compelled to lend our voice. Supporting Referendum 71 is one of those issues.
— Brian Bershad – Engineering and Site Director, Google Seattle
— Scott Silver – Engineering and Site Director, Google Kirkland
What happened to the Roman Empire? I am aware of very many attempts to answer this question. More than 200 years ago, Edward Gibbon memorably blamed the barbarians and the Christians for what he termed “the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.” My high school gym teacher blamed a lack of physical fitness among the Romans. But in decades of study, I have yet to see any serious scholar blame something called “the homosexual lifestyle.” — David Lupher, Tacoma
Why on Earth should I insist my government give me unearned privileges over another taxpaying citizen because I’m heterosexual? — Jeff Kerssen-Griep, Vancouver
Rallying outside the John Birch Society/Tea Party, I was reminded of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.” — Mary Milam, Yakima
I am curious as to why so many people are unaware that, beyond the gay issue, Referendum 71 is a benefit for unmarried heterosexual seniors, in that domestic partnerships mean that their hard-earned Social Security, military or pension benefits are not put at risk as they would be with a traditional marriage. — Ruth Sweeney, Spokane
As a religious minister, I urge the readers of the Bellevue Reporter to Approve Referendum 71 on the November ballot. Keep the Domestic Partnership Law. — Rev. Joan Montagnes, East Shore Unitarian Church, Bellevue
Referendum 71 is in no way a threat to families and children. In fact, the opposite is true. What is a threat to families and children is teaching intolerance and the lack of compassion. — Kristine Alskog Hall, Gig Harbor
Recent letters concerning Referendum 71 have made persuasive arguments as to why we should vote yes but have missed one key detail. The most compelling case to be made for R-71 and equal rights for same-sex couples is that there are no logical arguments against them. — Rod Whittaker, Shelton
I have concerns about Larry S. Bowman Jr.’s Oct. 12 letter, “Where does this law lead to?” Referendum 71 isn’t about marriage, it’s about domestic partners. His letter rails against gay marriage, and yet I can remember a few years ago all the talk was about how people had no problems with equal rights, just don’t call it “marriage.” That’s exactly what R-71 is about: equal rights. — Larry Didier, Vancouver
I hear that there is a rumor being spread that if referendum 71 passes, my synagogue or church will be forced to perform same-sex ceremonies. That’s not true – not even remotely possible. — Rabbi Marti Leviel, Bellingham
Revisiting the music of Peter, Paul & Mary, on the passing of Mary Travers, one finds the chorus of her duet with Holly Near of Sally Fingerett’s “Home Is Where The Heart Is.” — Bob Findlay, Olympia
Referendum 71 is the civil rights issue of this generation and I am passionately committed to ensuring that all couples have the same rights and protections that I enjoy as a married person in this state. — Kim Glore, Bellingham
I’m a married, heterosexual, Christian minister with eight grandchildren. I try to be a follower of Jesus, who said that we should care about the least, who challenged those in power and with special privileges, and who directed his ministry of love and acceptance to the less-privileged. Accordingly, I support Referendum 71. — Judi Edwards, Bremerton
I work every day with women and children fleeing domestic violence. My work at the YWCA has taught me that all that matters in a relationship is love. — Miriam Barnett, Gig Harbor
An Oct. 16 Associated Press article reports that a Louisiana judge still refuses to marry interracial couples. Astonishing, in this day and age? Apparently not, given that hundreds gathered in Yakima the previous evening to hear “Tea Party” speakers espousing much the same sort of bigotry. — Gina King, Yakima
As my own 43rd wedding anniversary approaches, I write to urge readers to vote “yes” on Referendum 71 in November. — Chris Lilly Backus, Bellingham
I’m voting to approve Referendum 71 because I believe all families deserve to be treated equally and fairly under the law. This is about honoring family values for all types of families. — Laura Ellsworth, Vancouver
R-71 opponents are disingenuous at best. At worst, they are lying outright. — J. Matthew Phipps, Gig Harbor
Our ballots have begun to arrive in mailboxes all over our area, and at this critical time in our history, I ask all voters to consider carefully the significance of their vote, the meaning of the act of voting and the importance of considering the outcomes of this act. — Rev. Elizabeth “Kit” Ketcham, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island
My partner and I of 18 years have lived in Gig Harbor since 1991. As I drive around the area, going to the Costco or the YMCA, I am seeing signs for the reject Referundum 71 campaign. That saddens me. — Rex Davison, Gig Harbor
Any notion that domestic partners are demanding “special rights” is preposterous. The right to use family sick leave to care for one’s seriously ill domestic partner, or the right to the death benefits when one’s domestic partner is killed in the line of duty are examples of rights that other families already enjoy. — Dan Thane and Christopher Chow, Lummi Island
Homosexuality is not a choice. I know this because I am heterosexual, and am not at all attracted to people of my own sex. And I am not choosing to be that way. — Fred Godejohn, Seattle
In times of economic hardship, we should not impede the efforts of fellow citizens to care for their own. This is about equality and fairness, yes, but ultimately it is about the basic tenet of faith that you should treat others as you yourself would wish to be treated. — Cary Toland, Seattle
I’ve recently become engaged to the love of my life. Unfortunately, as we are trying to celebrate our love and plan our wedding, our joy has been undercut by the struggle that our gay friends and family are fighting this November. — Kyle Robinson, Spokane
The annual Project Homeless Connect at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall attracted about 1,600 homeless people, all from our local area (TNT, 10-15). Many came alone, and some arrived in small groups and families. — Colleen Waterhouse, Lakewood
I ask you to approve Referendum 71, which affirms the 2009 Domestic Partnership Bill. Why? It represents the fairness that is at the heart of American representative democracy. — Karen Frank, Port Townsend
As a pastor serving in local congregations in the Northwest for over 30 years, I often hear from people who are concerned about family values and strengthening the family. Members of religious communities and others who value strong families should vote “Yes” on Referendum 71. — Rev. John Rosenberg, Tumwater
Lesbian and gay people pay taxes without being allowed full legal rights. So much hard work and generously paid taxes while their families were not protected and their rights frequently denied with heart-breaking regularity. — Deborah Jordan, Tacoma
I am amused by the “Statement Against” Referendum 71 in the Voters’ Pamphlet. — Mike Kenyon, Auburn
Children are suffering because their parents do not have access to the same rights and legal avenues that straight parents are availed. — Cathy Campbell, Bellingham
Is fairness one of your values? Gay men and lesbians in Washington pay taxes like everyone else, but don’t get treated like everyone else. — Pat Fabiano, Bellingham
Chuck Miller confuses me regarding his “defense of marriage” in his Oct. 8 letter, “Protect marriage; vote ‘no’ on Ref. 71.” How can he defend marriage by refusing to let legal adults who love each other not have the same rights that he enjoys? — Shelby Kenoyer, Vancouver
Please help us keep the recent protections of domestic partnerships, such as family and medical leave, offered both gay and lesbian families and senior citizens by our state Legislature. — Kate Miller, Bellingham
As chair of the Advisory Council for the Southwest Washington Agency on Aging and Disabilities, I am particularly concerned about all matters that pertain to Washington’s senior citizens. — Maggie Culbertson, Battle Ground
American values: Equality. Freedom. Opportunity. Pursuit of happiness. E pluribus unum. Diversity. Unity. Thirteen states united into one. — Annie Russell, Gig Harbor
With the approach of the November election, opponents of Referendum 71 are citing everything from cultural tradition to religious and moral authority to explain their intention to vote against it – because it reaffirms the “everything but marriage” law recently passed by the state Legislature. — Garland Richmond, Bellingham
My partner of 18 years and I have lived in Gig Harbor since 1991. As I drive around the area, going to the Costco or the YMCA, I am seeing signs for the Reject Referendum 71 campaign. This saddens me. — Rex Davison, Gig Harbor
Our Constitution clearly states that we are all created equal and yet here we are in 2009, once again voting on whether our gay citizens should have equal rights. It is appalling. — Ellen Lockert, Bainbridge Island
I’m writing in response to Steve Shay’s article about Ref. 71 earlier this week. I want to say that Referendum 71 is not “the latest assault to marriage” as he notes a member of the opposition stated, but rather it is just a continuation of rights that are already in place, rights that should belong to each member of any life-long committed relationship. — Lauren Myers, Tacoma
A few months ago, when this referendum was still in the signature-collecting stages, I came across an article comment that has stuck with me throughout this referendum process. I believe it encompasses exactly for what we are fighting. — Kara Gallemore, Fall City
Just last year, after living in Seattle for eight years, I returned to California. At that time, the battle of Proposition 8 was heating up. I returned to a state full of hatred and anger. It became open season on the gay community. — Karen Hedberg, Palm Springs, Calif.
I am a married, straight male. I know that two men or two women in a committed relationship to each other will not harm my marriage or anyone else’s marriage, either current or future. — Robert L. Stewart, Renton
As we come closer to the vote on Referendum 71, I start to think about the facts. — Chris Boone, Seattle
Those so-called religious leaders working to repeal the law securing partnership rights for all Washington citizens ought to spend a little less time preaching against gays and a little more time rereading the gospel message of the man they claim to follow. — Dan Murphy, Everett
Washington voters can help foster healthy communities by voting Nov. 3 to approve Referendum 71. Upholding the domestic partnership law will protect Washington families and show fairness to all citizens regardless of sexual orientation, while protecting our economy. — Kate Joncas and Lyn Tangen
We are a gay couple in a 16-year committed relationship. We raised a son together as full-time parents. We were active PTSA members and officers. We own and maintain a home together. In short we do all the things a ‘traditional’ family does. — Dan Jensen and Terry Williams, Scenic Heights (Charlestown)
We take exception to the premise that providing equal rights and protection under the law for gays and lesbians constitutes special rights. — Jerry and Sue Howson, Des Moines
Basic civil rights for all citizens of the state, including gay couples, are not special rights [“The leaders behind push to undo gay benefits,” page one, Oct. 14]. The law that Larry Stickney and Gary Randall are trying to overturn merely provides equal legal protection for all domestic partners who are currently denied the right to marry. — Michael Carr, Seattle
Re: “Don’t be swayed by guilt trip arguments” (letter, 10-9). The author wrote that he believes voters should not concern themselves with the arguments offered by either side of the issue. …When was it that ignorance became a basis upon which to vote? — Dean Uribe, Olympia
Initiative 1033 and Referendum 71 are insidious measures, in my opinion. In their own way they denigrate our lifestyle to the maximum degree if we vote the wrong way. — Adrienne Lederer, Bellingham
I find it shocking that in the United States, a country that has seen so much progress in civil rights, there is such a large group of people that will stop at nothing to deny the rights of same-sex couples. — Derek Held, Junior in Computer Science
The state law giving same-sex couples equal rights of a domestic partnership to married spouses is already here. SB 5688 was signed into law in May 2009. And nothing disastrous or devastating has happened. The sky hasn’t fallen. — Eva Luchini, Camas
For years now opponents to same sex relationships have been arguing that they are not in favor of calling domestic partnerships “marriages” but, that they do support rights for all families. Clearly they have been less than honest about their intent and ultimate goal. — Desi Saylors, Olympia
After listening to the no on Referendum 71 ads on radio, I am left wondering why its sponsors want us to vote no. — Jim Borah, Tacoma
A letter writer suggests we not be swayed by either side but to vote our “gut feeling” (TNT, 10-9). My gut feeling is that “all people are created equal” and perhaps should be treated that way. — Catherine North, Federal Way
In addition to protecting gay families who are denied the right to marry, the domestic partnership law provides protection to older hetrosexual couples where one partner is at least 62 years of age. — Ian Anderson, RN, Greenwood
My wife and I are passionate about equality. We often remark on how sad and silly it would be if we had been born different genders. Our rights as a couple would be different in many parts of the country. Luckily, Washington already has a great domestic partnership law. Unluckily, it’s under threat this fall. — Nick Lesiecki, Ballard
It seems a little ironic that people who left their own country because of religious persecution feel free to persecute others in this country because of their sexual orientation. — Maggie Hart, Lake Forest Park
Some of the same folks who likely emigrated from Russia to escape state-sanctioned oppression and curtailment of basic human rights, and to enjoy the American promise of tolerance and freedom, are working hard to ensure those benefits are withheld from a substantial portion of Americans. — Faren Bachelis, Shoreline
As Slavic evangelicals take to the streets with their signs to reject R-71, I have one request: Think. — Teresa Dix, Mount Vernon
It was disheartening to read The Seattle Times article of the several hundred demonstrators who descended on Lynnwood to protest Referendum 71…Is there any difference between a dictator and a religious group telling people how they should live their lives? — Louise Nadeau, Lake Forest Park
A recent letter writer urges us to feel no guilt in voting to reject Referendum 71 (TNT, 10-9). We should ignore centuries of human progress, basing our vote on a primitive urge rather than making a thoughtful, informed decision that acknowledges our collective human dignity. — Rudolph Henry, Tacoma
There was a time in our nation when it was acceptable to force your wife to have sex, when blacks were lower than whites and when women were considered second-class citizens. Children were promised to others for marriage, and molestation was a problem kept quiet. However, our culture has evolved with time. — Sais Singh, Sumner
Referendum 71 must be approved for fairness and justice. We have always had reactionary citizens who think they know what is best for others. In earlier times, those who persecuted others as witches in the name of God destroyed lives and spread nothing but fear in their misguided attempts to be pious. — Carol Patterson, Vancouver
Re: “R-71 would help protect Washington’s families – like mine” (Viewpoint, 10-8). We found it both humorous and troubling that our dear friend Laurie Jinkins had a such a touching Viewpoint article about her and Laura’s family on the same day that you reported about the Baptist minister who was making obscene phone calls to a nearby coffee shop. — Linda Shaffer & Walt Waisath, Jr., Tacoma
The Domestic Partnership law is about equality for every resident of Washington and it is NOT marriage. The legislators that we voted into office approved an expansion of benefits earlier this year—Senate Bill 5688. Now a small group of individuals want to overturn this and deny basic rights to same-sex couples and heterosexual couples over the age of 62. To vote to deny these rights is a slap in the face to thousands of Washingtonians who are your friends, family neighbors, classmates and professors. — Nick Milhoan, Western junior, Chair of Bellingham Pride Festival
As religious leaders of West Seattle, we have come together to speak with one voice for all families. Religious leaders before us have spoken to end slavery, and to ensure equal rights to all persons regardless of gender, nationality, religion, and race. Today, we feel compelled to speak out in support of Washington’s domestic partnership law, which provides essential protections to families throughout the state.
Rev. Kendall Baker, Retired, United Church of Christ
Rev. Peg Boyle Morgan, Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation
Rev. Dr. Joanne Carlson Brown, Tibbetts Methodist Church
Rev. Diane Darling, Alki Congregational United Church of Christ
Rev. Ann J. Eidson, Admiral Congregational Church
Rev. David Kratz, Fauntleroy United Church of Christ Church
Rabbi Anson Laytner, Congregation Kol HaNeshamah
Rev. Mark Newton, Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation
Rev. Paul Winterstein, Calvary Lutheran Church
As YWCA Clark County’s executive director, I ask Washington voters to please vote “yes” on Referendum 71. Your vote preserves the domestic partnership law that has already been passed by our state legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire. This law expands the rights of registered gay and lesbian domestic partnerships. It also applies to heterosexual partnerships when one partner is at least 62. — Kathy Kniep, Vancouver
Our country was founded on the equality of all men and women. Why should that change based upon the sexuality of the individuals? — Kim Driscoll, Bellevue
For the life of me, I fail to understand how gay marriage could be a threat to traditional marriage. — C. Wight Reade, Seattle
The Times Sunday front-page headline “Stakes high in fight over gay rights” is only partially correct. The stakes are certainly high for the gay and lesbian community. If Referendum 71 is defeated, they lose an opportunity to gain the dignity, happiness and peace of mind that the rest of us take for granted. — David G. Gardner, Seattle
I am writing in support of Referendum 71, and asking my fellow community members to vote to approve the expanded domestic partner rights in Washington state. – Brian Griffith, Pasco
If Referendum 71 isn’t approved, it will be a major step in the wrong direction for all Washington families. All of us should be treated equally and fairly under the law. Approve Referendum 71. — Sarah Hinton, Bellingham
I choose to think voting to approve R-71 is not only granting equal civil and human rights to our fellow citizens, but is a moral act of respect and love. I recall from my days in Sunday school, of the three important elements in a person’s character, “the greatest of these is love.” I plan to acknowledge that precept by voting to approve R-71. — Robert J. Dietz, Bremerton
The letter by Hal Seligson in Saturday’s paper really gives all the right reasons for supporting Washington families. However, his call to action was contrary. For the Domestic Partnership Law to remain intact we must vote to APPROVE Referendum 71. — Grethe Cammermeyer, Langley
If Referendum 71 isn’t approved, it will be a major step in the wrong direction for all Washington families. All of us should be treated equally and fairly under the law. Approve Referendum 71. — Mark Lee, Kennewick
I’m constantly amazed by the letters to the editor. While everyone should be able to voice their opinion, the lack of logic is sometimes astounding. — William R. Marsh, Vancouver
I love Edmonds. I have lived here for over 40 years and the last 20 with my life-partner. We own our home, and we have great neighbors, two dogs and a cat. — Melissa Barran and Jo Ann Hartline, Edmonds
Vote APPROVE on Referendum 71 to retain Washington’s already granted domestic partnership benefits. This law allows gay, lesbian and heterosexual partners all civil rights of partnership. It is a matter of social justice and moral equity to do so. People of good conscience will vote “yes” with you. — Barbara J. Monda, Olympia
The Washington State Legislature recently passed legislation, signed by the governor, to expand the rights of those in registered domestic partnerships recognized by the state. …I urge those of us in the Snoqualmie Valley who care about protecting all families in Washington to vote to approve Referendum 71! — Janet Sailer, North Bend
It’s strange to think I can live in a state where some of the most influential people whom I hold higher than myself, such as teachers, friends or future leaders, cannot exercise the same civil rights I have. — Julee Felts, Shoreline
The Times performed a great service in reminding the public to get out and vote for R-71 in order to maintain equality in our democracy [“Broad support to approve R-71,” Opinion, Sept. 25]. — Harold R. Pettus, Everett
During the 28 years we’ve been in a loving, committed relationship, we’ve worked at challenging jobs, paid taxes, voted, maintained our home, volunteered in community service projects, participated in religious observances, taken care of each other, our children and now our perfectly glorious grandson. We worry about the economy, our home’s value and our retirement accounts. As senior citizens, we finally collect Social Security and actually get discounts at the movies. — Harriet Forman and Claire Fulenwider, Vancouver
The editorial staff of The Olympian, hiding behind an appeal to democracy in “Let the voters decide,” are actually advocating institutionalized bigotry and discrimination. Referendum 71 should not be on the ballot because civil rights are a matter of what is just, not whether a minority can sway the opinion of a disinterested majority. — Lee Haugen, Olympia
As a fair-minded and educated individual, I want to tell the community at large about the necessity to approve Referendum 71. — Mary C. Otterness, Federal Way
Lest the debate on retaining Washington’s domestic partnership law be hijacked by side issues typified by that inflammatory euphemism, “sexual preferences,” we must remember that, in this case, the phase “domestic partnerships” applies to any loving, committed couple that for cultural reasons (if they are of the same gender), or financial reasons (if they are straight and one partner is at least 62 years old), cannot enjoy the benefits of a legal marriage. — Nancy Frank, Bremerton
While I applaud Peter Wagner’s column encouraging the approval of Referendum 71, I think it’s important for people to think not only about this law in terms of the couples, but in terms of families as well. — Dustin Hall, Pullman
In the waging of war, we call it collateral damage. In the politics of plebiscites we call it the law of unintended consequences. — Hal Seligson, Langley
I believe in health care reform because all people — not just the lucky ones — should have access to basic health care…A “No” vote on Referendum 71 would reject this year’s extended gay-rights* legislation and take away critical rights, including some related to health care, from thousands of families. I urge a “Yes” vote on Referendum 71. –Allie Denny, Vancouver *Ed. note: Heterosexual seniors in domestic partnerships were also extended those critical rights.
I have been a lifetime Washingtonian. Though I have traveled the world, this is the state my family has called home since the 1850s. I am a conservative. I work hard and believe everyone should work and earn their way. I have a strong belief in God and enjoy a country that provides freedom for our religious beliefs. — Nola Leyde, Yelm
Please vote to approve Referendum 71. I’m not sure why anyone would oppose it. It is not about gay marriage. In fact, it’s really not about gay anything. — Marti Leviel, Bellingham
To paraphrase Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good citizens do nothing.” In the face of the latest fear-based initiative to strip away human rights from gay men and lesbian women (Referendum 71), it is time for all allies of gays and lesbians to stand up. — E. Duane Wilkerson, Executive Director Pierce County AIDS Foundation
I love Edmonds. I have lived here for over 40 years and the last 20 with my life partner. We own our home, and we have great neighbors, two dogs and a cat. — Melissa Barran & Jo Ann Hartline, Edmonds
Discrimination means you are all alone in the world. You are a Jew in 1940 Germany, a black person in 1890 Mississippi, a Christian in Iraq, or a married gay couple in California (the victims of Proposition 8). — Larry Little, Vancouver
Thanks for your editorial in support of all Washington families ["Basic fairness, equality for Washington families," editorial, Sept. 2]. To voters who would deny me and my family equal rights, I’m not afraid to let you know who I am. — Cathie Bachy, Seattle
I will be voting to approve Referendum 71 to provide legal protections for couples and families like mine. My same-sex wife — we were married in Canada — and I are raising two children. Our son is a special-needs child, and our daughter is an honor student who will be a high-school junior this year. — Nancy Suppe, Bothell
I was elated to read your editorial ["Basic fairness, equality for Washington families," Opinion, Sept. 2] encouraging voters to approve Referendum 71, upholding the domestic-partnership law, when it comes to the ballot this fall. — Tucker Cholvin, Snohomish
I support Referendum 71. It is fair and correct to affirm the rights of Washington’s gay and lesbian families. The United States Constitution was written for the people, not just married people, not just single people. For everybody. — Scott Leopold, Everett
For the life of me, I cannot conceive of how marriage between two people of the same gender could be of any threat to my 50-year marriage; it doesn’t need any “defense of marriage” group’s help. — Martin Paup, Seattle
Washington state citizens, straight, gay, and in-between or undefined, may decide whether or not gay couples are entitled to equal treatment under the law. Referendum 71, which forces the Legislature to submit the civil rights of Washington’s gay and lesbian citizens to a vote of the people, may shortly qualify for the November ballot. Please remember your gay and lesbian friends and family members as you vote to approve Referendum 71 and affirm the shared humanity and civil rights of your fellow citizens. — Andrew Williams, South Orange, N.J.
There are a lot of views and information out there in regards to our state’s domestic partnership rules and the fight for Referendum 71, yet I think many people are confused and misinformed. So I thought I’d try to help people understand it: It is not marriage, while people may believe and say it is, it’s not marriage and one can’t go into a church or visit city hall to get a license and have a “legally recognized” ceremony. — Nick Milhoan, Bellingham
I’m getting tired of people making unfair comparisons. — Brecia V. Rife, Vancouver
I am one of those straight people who opposes* Referendum 71, which would repeal a bill extending rights to gays and lesbians. God did not leave me in charge of hate and discontent and decisions to make other human beings unhappy. Every human deserves the right to be happy. — Connie Smith, Vancouver
*Ed.: Supporters of the Domestic Partnership law must vote to APPROVE the law, should the question make it to the ballot.
It is sad to see so many of fellow citizens’ lives mired in fear and a cramped, anti-Christian attitude. I refer to those working to overturn Washington state’s new domestic partnership law. The new law extends to gay and lesbian families more of the rights currently enjoyed by the rest of us. In addition to hospital visitation and inheritance rights, several economic rights are included, such as worker’s compensation, legal signing rights, sick leave to care for a spouse and inheritance. — Chris Langlois, Vancouver
More than 5,000 Washington families and couples have registered as domestic partners. These are your neighbors, children, grandparents, friends and coworkers. These are our teachers, our firefighters, our social workers and healthcare workers. If someone asks you to sign Referendum 71, first ask yourself “do I really want to be responsible for taking away someone’s rights – taking away someone’s children’s healthcare, taking away someone’s pension, taking away someone’s right to visit their partner in the hospital?” — Ann Russell, Bellingham
When I went to our local Wal-Mart recently, a man was out front getting petition signatures for Referendum 71. It would repeal Senate Bill 5688, which the Legislature passed to give registered domestic partners some of the same rights as other couples, namely the right to share health, auto, and home insurance; the right to visit and make health care decisions for each other; etc. What really upset me was that the signature gatherer said it was against gay marriage, which was untrue. The people signing the petition were being misled. — Kareen Shanks, Puyallup
Paid petitioners ($1 per signature) are gathering signatures this week at a Wal-Mart in Bellingham, to get the anti-domestic partnership Referendum 71 on the ballot. The petitioners are using slander as a means of getting voters to sign. – Bob Teichman, Tulalip
My partner and I have been together for almost 20 years. As far as I know, no heterosexual couple has divorced or separated as a result. We pay our taxes, keep up our yard, help our elderly neighbor and participate in various nonprofits that benefit the community. Yet many Washingtonians would deny us some very basic rights. Gay and lesbian people pay the same taxes; their families should be entitled to the same legal protections, rights and responsibilities as any other taxpayer. — Catherine North,Federal Way
Please join me in declining to sign Referendum 71 petitions. It is wrong to take away rights from Washington’s gay and lesbian families. I recognize and declare: “For those who love, loving pour forth radiance;” “We are the sons and daughters of God;” “In our lifetime, peace, peace on Earth, goodwill to mankind.” In our lifetime equality, rights for all. Stop discrimination now, or risk it happening to you in the future. — Maxine Erickson, Milton
Re: “Other ways to grant partner rights” (letter, 6-22). The letter supporting Referendum 71 was profoundly disturbing because the tone indicated a reasonable, intelligent writer, probably someone generally of good will. The disturbing aspect was the ease with which the writer objectified some people, in effect dehumanizing them, making them lesser beings that somehow pose a threat to the “superior” majority and therefore are not worthy of the same rights and respect “normal” people take for granted. — John McCluskey, Tacoma
All Americans deserve equal protection under the law. — David Palmer, Des Moines
All Washington families should be treated the same, with the same protections, the same rights and the same obligations as their neighbors. With the economic crisis making life so much more difficult for so many families, we need to increase support, not take it away. — Laura Ellsworth, Vancouver
Peel back the fear-mongering, sky-is-falling rhetoric and examine the truth of SB 5688. It simply ensures that all Washington families are guaranteed equal protection under the law. This legislation is not marriage. SB 5688 simply provides death benefits for the domestic partners of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty, pension benefits for partners of teachers and other public employees, victim’s rights, and the right to adopt a partner’s child without paying for a home study. Radical stuff? Far from it. — Rachel Smith-Mosel, Federal Way