Married to the Word ‘Marriage’May 12th, 2009 by Steven Gardner
The e-mails I’m not getting make me wonder if all the hubbub really is as simple as being about a single word:
The Washington Secretary of State’s office sent notice that the governor plans to “take action” on Senate Bill 5688 on Monday. The legislation gives same-sex couples registered with the state in a domestic partnership every legal right and responsibility married couples have, except for one. They can’t call it “marriage.” That’s why the bill was called “everything but marriage.”
I have signed up for e-mail alerts from those for and against same-sex marriage. Last week I received notices about efforts in Washington, D.C., New Hampshire and Maine, in addition to a hotel boycott in California and the reaction to the beauty pageant contestant who said in her country marriage is between a man and a woman, no offense.
This was during the week when opponents of same-sex marriage filed a referendum against the “everything but marriage” law the Washington Legislature approved. There has been nothing so far. In fact, there are those who would normally be against same-sex unions who are choosing to not participate in this battle.
Here’s the fifth reason why, from Pastor Joe Fuiten:
” . . . if we make a referendum effort and fail, the other side will conclude the public is with them on this issue. That will embolden the other side to take the final step of marriage in the next session. I think we can win on the marriage issue but if we deplete our capital of money and goodwill in a failed referendum, we will not have the strength to win the marriage battle.”
There is some friendly pushback against that argument from Larry Stickney from the Washington Values Alliance:
“A Referendum to roll back SB 5688 (which grants full spousal rights for homosexual couples in everything but the name) will keep the law from going into effect and put the measure in front of the voters in November. If we wait, the new law goes into effect in June and the Defense of Marriage Act will be challenged in the courts and likely overturned this same time next year. We have no time to waste, we have no other recourse, they are inside the wire . . .”
In other comments the reason the Defense of Marriage Act would be challenged would be because in Washington we would be recognizing relationships that look like marriage. So legally what would be the point of not calling it by that name? Perhaps the key here is that it would be challenged in the courts, not by crafting new laws in the Legislature or by voter initiative.
What is now being referred to as Referendum 71 will not become official until the governor signs the bill as is. If she vetoes any part of it, there would need to be a new filing.
We did get a press release from the local Catholics in the announcement that the Knights of Columbus Bremerton Council endorsed the referendum. Maybe I’m jumping the gun by interpreting the early quiet as disinterest. Perhaps the governor’s signing will mark the launch of a half-year debate on the state’s recognition of committed relationships between people of the same sex.
For now, though, it feels like as long as you don’t call it marriage, you’re not going to get much opposition.