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Editorial: Equal rights opponents should visit our state

In vetoing a bill that would grant same-sex couples the same rights as married couples, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said voters should decide: “It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials.”

Actually, it is the job of elected officials to make decisions big and small in a representative democracy. The Washington state Legislature passed a similar bill and the governor signed it. Then some citizens banded together and tried to get the law tossed at the ballot. They lost.

So Hawaii will probably proceed in the reverse order, because its governor doesn’t want to make a big decision.

Meanwhile, opponents of equal rights for gay couples are outraged over a federal judge’s decision that a federal ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional because it interferes with some states’ wishes to have benefits distributed equitably. At the heart of this case is the Defense of Marriage Act, which a small group of elected officials, also known as Congress, passed in 1996.

That case will surely be appealed, but we have to wonder why there is always so much fuss over equal rights. Hawaii’s governor said the bill in her state was tantamount to adopting gay marriage. The same argument was made here. So what great harm has descended upon Washington state now that an “everything but marriage” law is on the books?

The only people inconvenienced are those who used to legally discriminate when it came to housing and other public accommodations. Are we to shed a tear for them? The horrors that were predicted have failed to materialize. The state has not imposed itself on churches.

Exaggeration and fear-mongering are regular features of political campaigns, but wouldn’t it make sense for opponents of equal rights in other states to take a look at ours to see what has happened?

What would they find if they did look? Daily life is the same for most people. Some citizens are now benefiting from rights they didn’t have before, to the detriment of nobody else. The foundation of marriage has not been eroded. Men and women are still getting married and the vows are just as meaningful. This would also be the case if same-sex couples here were allowed to get married. A tour of states that allow gay marriage would reveal this.

In reality, the extension of rights and benefits to all citizens has been quiet and dignified. We’d welcome anybody from Hawaii or anywhere else where these issues are being hashed to pay us a visit. The state would be proud to show them around.

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