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
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?