October 9, 2009 in Opinion

Editorial: Support referendum to protect rights for all

 

The Spokesman-Review Editorial Board

Members of The Spokesman-Review editorial board help to determine The Spokesman-Review's position on issues of interest to the Inland Northwest. Board members are:

Listening to the opponents of Referendum 71, you’d think the Washington state Legislature had either outlawed marriage, made it legal for same-sex couples or advocated the burning of Bibles. None of those things happened when Senate Bill 5688, or the “everything but marriage” law, was adopted last spring.

But the videos at the official “Vote No” site try to put the fear of God in voters. If they don’t reject this measure, they will “put asunder” God’s work and “violate His mandate.”

Here is the ballot language. You decide:

“This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities, and obligations accorded state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.”

To repeat, “not a marriage.” Opponents can argue that this bill is a step toward ending all discrimination against same-sex couples by letting them marry, but rather than defend that bigotry they choose to say their biblical interpretations leave them no choice.

Think it through. On what moral grounds is it OK to discriminate in so many ways? The bill was more than 100 pages long, because that’s how far-reaching the favoritism for traditional couples was in state statutes. Two years ago, the Legislature gave same-sex couples equal rights in the areas of hospital visitations, autopsies, organ donations and inheritance. This year, they extended that equality to all laws that confer rights based on marital status, with the exception of allowing marriage itself.

Couples who want to obtain those rights have to sign a state registry of domestic partnership. Thousands have done so. This roundabout approach is directly related to the sensitivities society has with government endorsing any marriage that isn’t traditional. But at the same time, polls show strong majorities oppose government discrimination against same-sex couples.

These progressive developments have been too much for opponents to accept. To them, marriage was under assault, so they gathered enough signatures to force a public vote. It’s confusing, but a yes vote would affirm the law.

Will this measure some day lead to gay marriage? We sure hope so. The genius of SB 5688 was that it showed the widespread nature of discrimination – intentional or otherwise – when rights are attached to a marriage license. The favoritism affects such areas as adoption, child support rights, public employee benefits, business succession rights, sick leave, and on and on. Realizing this, many people changed their minds, because the basic unfairness violated their traditional values.

But it is not accurate to state that the passage of Referendum 71 is the same as letting same-sex couples marry. If voters buy that argument, then they must be prepared to reinstall widespread discrimination.

Say no to that by voting yes on Referendum 71.


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