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Wed., Feb. 22, 2012, 1:14 p.m.

Gay marriage foes challenge ballot language

OLYMPIA -- Opponents of same-sex marriage don't like the ballot language that Attorney General Rob McKenna has written for the referendum to overturn the law signed last week.

In a motion filed this week in Thurston County Superior Court, Preserve Marriage Washington argues that the ballot language leaves out a key element of the effect of the law, which will take effect on June 7 if opponents don't gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot by June 6. That element: the law would render the terms "husband" and "wife" gender neutral.

Voters who read the ballot title are not fully apprised of the legal effects of the law, PMW argues in its request to have the court change the ballot language to something closer to the language proposed when the referendum petition was filed with the state.

Last week, McKenna was criticized by Democrats for using the term "redefine marriage" in the ballot language when that phrase does not appear in the bill. Democrats say that's a term tested by groups opposed to same-sex marriage to influence voters.

To compare the language the sponsors of Ref. 74 submitted with the language McKenna's office proposed, go inside the blog.

Here's the ballot language submitted by Ref. 74 proponents:


The legislature has passed Senate Bill No. 6239 concerning the definition of marriage and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill. This bill would redefine marriage from a civil contract between one man and one woma to a "civil contract between two persons" and makes "husband" and "wife" gender-neutral terms. Should this bill be




The bill would redefine marriage from being between one man and one wome to any two eligible persons regardless of sex. It construes terms like "husband" and "wife" to be gender-neutral. The bill permits minors to marry a person of the same sex by waiver of a superior court judge. The relationships of same-sex domestic partners under the age of 62 that are not dissolved by 2014 are converted to marriages.

Here's the Attorney General office's language:


The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marrage and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill.

This bill would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry, modify existing domestic-partnership laws, allow clergy to refuse to solemnize or recognize marrages and religious organizations to refuse to accommodate marriage celebrations. Should this bill be




The bill woould 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. Clergy could refuse to soemnize or recongize any marriages. Religious organizations and religiously affiliated educational institutions could refuse to accommodate weddings. The measure would not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster care or child-placement. Domestic partnerships for seniors would be preserved.

Feel free to comment on whose wording is better.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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