Referendum 71


Hey all, I know it’s been a while (more than a year!) since my last post here, but I decided it was probably time to resurrect this old blog.  And what better reason to do it than this?

It’s become clear in the last few weeks that we really need to get the word out about all of the LGBT rights “battles” going on across the US right now.  Now, I may not be in the same league as G-A-Y or Pam’s House Blend, but better to have proper information available where anyone can stumble upon it, rather than keeping it locked away on the big sites that your average person isn’t going to find unless they’re looking for them specifically.

The truth is, it’s down to the wire and we can’t just sit back and ride the wave of Hope from the 2008 election and Barack Obama’s historic new presidency.  Not when it comes to this issue.  Right now in Maine, Kalamazoo (that’s in Michigan, folks), and in my home state of Washington, we have three separate movements going on which will either help or hinder the advancement of civil rights for LGBT citizens in the foreseeable future.  All three were passed by legislature, but are now up to a vote due to opponent-backed referenda.  And while all three are incredibly important civil rights battles, I’ll be focusing my post on one in particular.

Washington State’s Referendum 71.  This one hits closest to home for me for a variety of reasons, not least among them the fact that I live a stone’s throw away from the capitol, Olympia.  In fact, I was just there for breakfast this morning.

Anyway,  Referendum 71 is not about marriage, but it’s certainly crucial.  Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5688 (SB 5688) was passed in the Senate and House, then signed by Governor Christine Gregoire on May 18th, thereby expanding the definition of a state registered domestic partnership (SRDP) in WA to be equivalent to that of a marriage in all but name.  To quote the ballot:

Ballot Measure Summary
Same-sex couples, or any couple that includes one person age sixty-two or older, may register as a domestic partnership with the state. Registered domestic partnerships are not marriages, and marriage is prohibited except between one man and one woman. This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of registered domestic partners and their families to include all rights, responsibilities, and obligations granted by or imposed by state law on married couples and their families.

All very nice, right?  They’ve always said they’d be fine with LGBT unions, as long as they get to keep the word “marriage” for themselves, after all.  Well, imagine the surprise when along came the über-Christian groups, Washington Values Alliance (WAVA) and Protect Marriage Washington (PMWA).  Just like in Maine (with their Question 1), they petitioned to put the motion on the ballot, and were successful despite documented cases of fraud in collecting the necessary signatures (for those who can’t/won’t watch the video, it shows an anti-equality petitioner in Port Angeles claiming his petition will protect gay rights rather than strip them away).

The opposition’s talking points are all based on misinformation, half-truths, and appeals to fear and emotion rather than truth, logic, fairness, and equality.  They are also acting as if 71 is about marriage.  It is NOT.  It’s about expanding the rights, responsibilities, and protections of SRDPs (including heterosexual ones!) to be equal to those afforded to married couples.  These rights include:

  • The right to use sick leave to care for a domestic partner
  • The right to wages and benefits when a domestic partner is injured, and to unpaid wages upon the death of a domestic partner
  • The right to unemployment and disability insurance benefits
  • The right to workers’ compensation coverage
  • Insurance rights, including rights under group policies, policy rights after the death of a domestic partner, conversion rights and continuing coverage rights
  • Rights related to adoption, child custody and child support
  • Business succession rights.

That’s right.  As of right now, under Washington law, if a gay man gets sick, his partner can’t legally use sick leave to stay home to care for him as a married man can do for his wife.  A lesbian woman couldn’t collect the unpaid wages owed if her partner were to die unexpectedly.  A heterosexual couple age 62+ who have entered into a SRDP for social security or pension reasons cannot legally file joint insurance policies because they aren’t married.  And these are only a few of some 1000+ rights and protections currently offered married couples, compared to the 170 offered to SRDPs.

A huge issue, though, is the fact that WAVA and PMWA both claim to be standing for the values of Washingtonians, but what about my values, or those of the roughly 6000 SRDPs in the state, or the countless LGBT people, families, and allies who stand diametrically opposed the WAVA and PMWA?  They claim to be standing up for the well-being of children.  What about SB 5688 would be harmful to children, or really affect them in any way?  It doesn’t turn kids gay, or even force schools to teach about gay people or same-sex marriage.  In all my years at school, I can’t recall ever having a marriage lesson, or a “Traditional Family Values™©®” class.

No, what this boils down to is religion. The WAVA and PMWA websites are covered with calls to prayer, claims of religious persecution, and babble about God-ordained marriage and values.  These groups are trying legislate their religion over our rights, and it must be stopped.  These people are using their religious beliefs to bully and scare Washingtonians into defining an entire subset of the population as second-class citizens, and we must not stand for it.

This late in the game, the Washingtonians among you should already have your ballots (remember, Washington is an all mail-in state, so there are no “polling places”).  Please, recognize the need for equality.  Support equal rights and protection under the law for all Washington families and citizens.  Vote to APPROVE Referendum 71.

– Reynvaan

P.S.: If you live in Pierce County and don’t have special ballot drop-off boxes like we do in Thurston County, remember to put two stamps on your ballot.  The extra weight this year makes it cost more to mail.


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