By Mike Andrew
It’s not everyday that you can help make history just by mailing in your ballot, but when we get our ballots this month we’ll have an opportunity to do just that by voting to approve Referendum 74.
Referendum 74 asks voters to approve or reject the state’s Marriage Equality Act, which allows gay and lesbian couples to marry. Although the legislature passed the law, and Gov. Gregoire signed it into law on February 14, right-wing opponents of equality challenged it in an initiative campaign and now voters must decide if the state should allow marriage for all committed couples.
PSARA has endorsed marriage equality, and PSARA volunteers participated in a phonebank for Referendum 74 on September 19.
A similar issue is also on the ballot in Maryland. There too, the legislature passed and the governor signed a marriage equality law, but the measure was challenged by right-wingers and is on the November ballot.
In Maine, voters overturned their state’s marriage equality law in 2009, but now Equality Maine has succeeded in putting a measure on the ballot to restore marriage rights to gay and lesbian partners.
All three ballot measures are ahead in polling. If one or more of them passes, it will be the first time in US history that voters – instead of courts or state legislatures – have approved laws allowing all couples to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Because we are in the Pacific time zone, Washington may not be the first state to do so, but if Referendum 74 is approved, we will be among the first group of states to enact marriage equality by a vote of the people.
While Washington already has laws that give rights to gay and lesbian couples, and the Obama administration has issued directives that ensure fairer treatment of same-sex couples when they encounter federal agencies, they still face many obstacles that married opposite-sex couples do not.
Even where gay and lesbian couples are allowed “domestic partnership” rights, as in Washington, or “civil unions” as in some other states, these arrangements are still “separate but equal” institutions that do not give committed same-sex couples the full recognition that marriage does.
And while Washington accords same-sex unions concluded in other states the same status as in-state domestic partners, these “separate but equal” arrangements are not necessarily transferable to other jurisdictions, so a couple in a Washington domestic partnership, let’s say, may find that in Missouri they have the same legal status as total strangers.
That’s why equal rights for gay and lesbian couples is a critical civil rights issue.
PSARA joins the Washington State Labor Council, Martin Luther King County and Pierce County Labor Councils, and a number of unions, community organizations, and religious groups representing both Jewish and Christian faith traditions in supporting marriage equality.
On the other side are national organizations like NOM (National Organization for Marriage) – which has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center – and a collection of traditionalist true-believers and local Republican politicians.
Approving Referendum 74 will be a huge blow to their efforts to keep gay and lesbian couples on the fringes of society, and an equally huge victory for equal rights for all families.
Help make history this year. Vote to approve Referendum 74.