Yesterday afternoon, Judge Thomas McPhee ruled that Washington’s Referendum 74, which is the bill that brings same-sex marriage equality to the state, will not contain the phrase “redefine marriage.” The Seattle PI reports Judge McPhee’s “language is final and cannot be appealed.”
It’s important to note that voters who vote “yes” are voting to support same-sex marriage equality.
The Secretary of State’s office posted the revised wording:
The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom, and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill.
Ballot Measure Summary
This bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender, and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnerships are converted to marriages, except for seniors. It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies. The bill does not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement.
If the opponents of same-sex marriage obtain the required signatures (at least 120,577 registered voters must sign the petition and it must be submitted by the 5:00 p.m. deadline on June 6, 2012) the measure will be on the ballot November 6. It is expected they will be able to collect the necessary number of signatures.
If voters approve Referendum 74, same-sex couples can marry beginning December 7.
Same-sex marriage equality supporters opposed the previous ballot wording because it claimed the law “would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry.”
Washington United for Marriage, a coalition that supports the new marriage equality law, said “redefine” is a loaded term and a talking point used by anti-gay marriage groups. Zach Silk, the campaign director for the coalition, said they wanted to make sure that the language was fair and easy for voters to understand. The judge “removed the most politically-charged language and made the language clear,” he said, according to the Seattle PI, which reports:
“We are excited to move on with the process,” said Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, one of the groups supporting the referendum.
Backholm said that while Preserve Washington would have preferred different language than what the judge finalized, “ultimately, the public understands that this bill redefines marriage and they will ultimately decide if that’s what they want to do.”
In a statement issued Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, who is running against McKenna for governor, accused him of “playing politics with marriage.”
A spokeswoman for McKenna called that charge “ridiculous” and noted that both sides challenged the initial wording at some point.
“We try to put forth the most fair and neutral language as possible,” said spokeswoman Janelle Guthrie. “If in fact he were working to appease one side or the other, you would think it wouldn’t be challenged by both sides.”
The Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage, which was involved in ballot measures that overturned same-sex marriage in California and Maine, has promised to work with Preserve Marriage Washington to qualify the referendum to overturn the new law.
Washington United for Marriage initiated a ”Decline to Sign” campaign the day after the bill was passed by the Washington state legislature.
Stuart Wilber believes that living life openly as a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Allied person is the most powerful kind of activism. Shortly after meeting his partner in Chicago in 1977, he opened a gallery named In a Plain Brown Wrapper, where he exhibited cutting edge work by leading artists; art that dealt with sexuality and gender identification. In the late 1980’s when they moved to San Clemente, CA in Orange County, life as an openly gay couple became a political act. They moved to Seattle 16 years ago and married in Canada a few weeks after British Columbia legalized same-sex marriage. Although legally married in some countries, they are only considered domestic partners in Washington State. Equality continues to elude him.
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