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Rob McKenna on gay marriage, working with Democrats, health care . . .

January 12th, 2012 by Steven Gardner

This picture is upside down. These mirrors and lights were on the ceiling, so in reality the people in them appeared to heels over head. This was a shot from Rob McKenna's visit visit the CK GOP Women Thursday.

Gay marriage did not come up in the two Rob McKenna events I attended Thursday. The most likely place all day it would have was with the Central Kitsap Republican Women.

During the business round table McKenna hosted in the evening he spoke with me as the small groups conversed. His main point on gay marriage is that it is inevitably going to go before voters, and that if Washington is going to change its policy that it should be voters who make that call.

McKenna said he voted for the domestic partnership law in 2009, which was supposed to give same-sex couples registered as domestic partners all the same rights the state allows married couples. If it isn’t working out that way, he said, then the state should address where a gay couples’ rights are being denied and fix it. He said it is not a constitutional issue, that the courts have upheld the state’s definition of marriage. “I support traditional marriage,” he said. “It’s a policy question. Do we want to redefine marriage?”

On his points about reforming workers’ compensation laws, Labor & Industries, health care, liability laws, I asked him where he thought he would get the most buy-in from the Legislature should both houses remain Democratic. He said the Legislature has already initiated some reform with workers’ comp, but that a move to privatize the insurance might be controversial. He said it doesn’t have to be for-profit insurers competing, that it could be limited to non-profits. He said Washington system is failing employees and employers because of the monopoly in place now.

McKenna also said he would think introducing tools like tax-increment financing (now unconstitutional) might be doable as well. A form of it is already in place in Gig Harbor with St. Anthony’s Hospital and in Bremerton with the parking garage that will be topped by a movie theater.

In health care he and Inslee are on the same page that Medicare reimbursements should be based on results rather than how many services are provided. Governors, McKenna said, would need to band together to influence the federal government to make those changes, that they already have successfully in some cases.

During lunch one in attendance said he thought McKenna’s chances of being successful in his challenge of the mandate portion of health care reform were great. I asked him if he was as optimistic. “I think the odds . . . are 5-4.” It only took me about 10 seconds to get the joke. Whatever happens, it won’t be surprising if the U.S. Supreme Court votes 5-4 one way or the other.

Back on the gay marriage issue I asked, in a roundabout way, if having it on a ballot favors him or Jay Inslee in the governor’s race. It’s something I addressed in the last paragraph of an earlier blog post about same-sex marriage. McKenna said there is a lot of debate about it, that he doesn’t know. In 2004 Republican Dino Rossi might have won the election had it been on the ballot in Washington as it was in other states. But many supporters of same-sex marriage rights believe public sentiment has shifted enough that it might work in Democrats’ favor now.

I’m not certain we’re going to find out. If the Legislature does pass a bill granting marriage to same-sex couples, I believe the question will end up on a ballot. Getting enough signatures will not be that difficult, I predict, especially because getting a referendum to undo a legislative action requires half the signatures a regular initiative does.

In either case, I tend to believe both sides would be able to gather enough signatures to get something ready for an election, but I’m not as certain gay marriage proponents will launch an initiative if the Legislature doesn’t act this session.

Initiative 71, the 2009 “Everything but Marriage” referendum, passed with 53.15 percent support. McKenna said he supported it, but he doesn’t want to call it “marriage.” Neither does radio talk show host Dori Monson.

Before the 2009 election I wrote on this blog:

Nationally, though, 71 seems to be getting little attention at all, and for me I wonder if it goes back to the fact that Washington would call gay committed relationships “domestic partnerships” and not “marriage.” I get e-mails from one of the chief opponents of gay marriage and in the most recent correspondences there were mentions of efforts in Maine, Iowa, the District of Columbia and New York. On Washington? Zero.

It’s early yet, but the energy this time, three years later, feels different. The opposition last time was splintered. Do you think there are lots of voters out there who, like McKenna, supported 71 but would not support calling gay couples “married?” Does the word mean that much?

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2 Responses to “Rob McKenna on gay marriage, working with Democrats, health care . . .”

  1. Michael Says:

    Mr McKenna’s warmth comes through strongly in his responses to your questions. For example, he supported the domestic partners legislation, but, even though he is an attorney general of this State, does not know what advantages marriage provides. Nor does the term equality come to his mind. For example, he must know that the federal DOMA is unconstitutional at least in a section, as is this State’s form of the law. And, posts seem to make clear on other threads, the basis is derived from the Christian Bible. But there are a number of faith-based organizations that are not Christian that speak of marriage. See Unitarians, Mormons, any kind of Hinduism–none of them Christian, for examples. See Buddhists who marry without any religion. See the majority of citizens who are not adherents of a faith-based life. But who engaged in civil unions, legitimized by law for legal agreeable citizens.

    At issue may be the contention of the faith-based that a preference for one’s same sex is a choice. Against that, science of several kinds that states against the notion of choice.

  2. Emilie Says:

    Yes, I think there are lots of voters out there who, like McKenna, supported 71 but would not support calling gay couples “married”.

    Does the word “married” mean that much. To those on both side of the issue, it does. Whether you are in a church blessed and civilly recognized “marriage” it is still a domestic partnership legally. Marriage itself no longer has the importance as it did to my generation and that of my parents. People now have “boyfriends” and “girlfriends” (silly labels) that they live with; we used to call those “common law marriages. The couple would refer to each other as husband or wife.

    So why not have everybody just register as “domestic partners” whther married in the old sense or just committed. So many people who got married end up divorced nowadays. The word and status no longer means much to most. What would never have been accepted in my day (heterosexuals living together before “marrage”), is now commonly accepted. There is no law that keeps homosexuals from living together openly, so I don’t know why “marriage” is such an issue, except that saying you are “married” is easier than saying “we are domestic partners”.

    Emilie
    Port Orchard

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