Judge Scraps Anti-Gay Spin on Washington Marriage Question


Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee has finalized the ballot language on R-74, the referendum on Washington’s marriage equality law, and in so doing has scrapped language offered by the attorney general’s office that appeared to put an anti-gay spin on the question.

The language now reads:

Statement of subject: The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom.

Concise description: This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.

Summary (does not appear on ballot, but does appear on petitions):

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.

The judge eliminated language offered by the attorney general’s office that would have said the legislation “would redefine marriage,” so the petitions being circulated would have have stated:

“The bill would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry, apply marriage eligibility requirements without regard to gender and specify that laws using gender-specific terms like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ include same-sex spouses.”

The phrase “redefine marriage” is one equality-foes the National Organization of Marriage have called the “most effective” language for winning public support against marriage equality.

The legal challenge, launched by the League of Women Voters of Washington and PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), claimed that the attorney general’s proposed title was not neutral and needed to be altered.

Gay marriage opponents filed a separate complaint however charging that the petition wording wasn’t nearly strident enough. They are now bitterly disappointed with the judge’s neutral language.

Said one marriage equality opponent to The Bellingham Herald:

“It’s much worse,” Joseph Backholm of the Family Policy Institute of Washington said of McPhee’s changes to wording submitted by the Attorney General’s Office Backholm is part of the Preserve Marriage Washington campaign that now plans to print petitions this afternoon. “They’ll be out by tomorrow,” Backholm said.

However the ACLU praised the rewording as fair and no longer “misleading,” with executive director Kathleen Taylor as saying: “We are pleased that the court has provided a fair and accurate title for Referendum 74. The language approved by the court rightly says that the marriage law is about the right of same-sex couples to marry legally and that the law preserves religious freedom. …The language proposed by the Attorney General was confusing and misleading. Now the ballot title for R-74 enables citizens to know clearly what their vote will mean.”

With this legal challenge now resolved and the petition wording agreed the signature gathering process to put the state’s new marriage equality law on the ballot can begin.

A “Decline to Sign” campaign has been started to try and prevent the issue even reaching the ballot, with the website carrying the message: “By declining to sign, voters are saying that marriage equality is important enough that it should not be subject to vote, but put straight into law.”

You can learn more about the campaign here.


Related Reading:

Gov. Gregoire Signs Washington Marriage Equality Bill

Microsoft Supports Marriage Equality in Washington

WA Lawyer Moves to Repeal Gay Marriage (Before It’s Even Been Legalized)

Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to poldavo.


Tony C.
Tony C5 years ago

A class in RESPECT AND RESPONSIBILITY should be taught from Grade one to graduation, children should be taught that anything is permissible as long as it does not hurt themselves or anybody else. Common sense would dictate that if children are taught at a very early age that every child has their own strengths and weaknesses and that they should use their strengths to help not tease or bully others. It should not matter if a child comes from a FAMILY of a mother and father, 2 mothers or 2 fathers or a single mother or father as long as they are LOVED.
Sex Education should be taught from LGBT, Contraceptives, Masturbation, Pregnancy and all forms of sex. Let us face it whether we like it or not children are curious and are having sex earlier and earlier. Children should be taught the joys and the consequences of having sex ( Pregnancy, STD, AIDS and others.) But you say when will this be taught. Cut out Geography or History early on then put it back in and remove Geometry or Algebra. They can learn this in college if needed. I believe this is a solution. Stopping the damage before it starts so that Bullying, Sexual Assault, and many others will be greatly diminished if not eradicated. It is my belief that when children graduate with these principals where they are taught RESPECT for themselves and others and to take RESPONSIBILITY for their actions. If children grow up with these principals I believe business and government would benefit greatly. Within a few generations

Stanley J.
Stanley J.5 years ago

BTW the family policy institute , just anotehr of the "family" groups who hate gays.

I'm proud both of my kids live with their girlfriends and wont marry until gays can get married.

BTW MA and CT are the first two states to have gay marriage.

And the two states with the lowest divorce rate.

Stanley J.
Stanley J.5 years ago

the enemies of civilization are the christian extremists whose hatred knows no bounds. they are the same culture that justified slavery as per the bible and gave us the KKK and segregation

And babbled about protecting the sanctity of the white race when the battle was to end miscengenation laws.

And toss in the catholic church run by a german pope extremist.............


Who also even more extreme, UNexcommunicated a bishop Williamson, a holocaust denier

http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/erbe/2009/02/05/pope-should-excommunicate-holocaust-denying-bishop-williamson?msg=1 - comments

Allen Pierce
Allen Pierce5 years ago

The Family Policy Inst. can print as many of these petitions as they like, but I'm not signing any one of them, and don't know anyone who will. The Decline to Sign campaign is alive and well in my little part of Washington.

Ra Sc
Ra Sc5 years ago

I think this bill is mostly good, but I dislike the bit about turning domestic partnerships into marriages automatically and without the consent of the involved parties. I am not familiar with the details of Washington's Domestic Partnership laws, but I have investigated California's, as I was considering whether I might need one. A domestic partnership is not the same thing as a marriage at all. For one thing, they can be useful for family members in some instances or for friends in certain instances. They are not purely useful for people who would like to get a marriage but are settling. While it doesn't redefine marriage, it sure does redefine domestic partnership. I think it'd be better if they left domestic partners alone, and let the people who want to marry marry. Having to get married after having gotten a domestic partnership, if marriage is what you really wanted, isn't so bad. Maybe make a really easy way to opt-in to marriage. But being forced into it isn't very nice. Marriage should always involve informed consent.

Krysti S.
Past Member 5 years ago

this bill is right on good work

Fred Krohn
Fred Krohn5 years ago

More doubletalk and doublethink on a subject that should be straight and simple. Kick out the religious extremists, not the behind closed doors alternative sexual partners!

Karen and Ed O.
Karen and Ed O5 years ago

This is all very nice, but my question is, what is it doing as a ballot measure? Marriage to a person of the same sex is a right and as such is not subject to being voted on.
Hopefully, since the damage has already been done, this measure will pass. But, be warned Washington, if it does you may be in for it. Proposition 8 was unfortuntely passed here in 2004. It is still making it's snail's pace way through the court system.
We need to demand that Congress get rid of DOMA and make it legal for same sex couples to get married everywhere --- as is their right.

John B.
John B5 years ago

Thank you very much.

Mary L.
Mary L5 years ago

Thank you your honor.