Washington Referendum Measure 74: The Righteous Case for Marriage Equality

I’m a dedicated but lazy citizen, so it was only this weekend that I got around to reading the literature presented in the Washington State voters’ pamphlet concerning Referendum Measure 74, the gay marriage bill. The measure was ratified by the legislature, but sufficiently many assholes petitioned for a referendum that it now requires approval from the People. Per the ballot:

This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.

The state legislature passed and the voters approved the so-called ‘Everything but Marriage’ bill in 2009 that equated domestic partnerships with marriages in every respect except the terminology. That’s obviously very stupid since a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so don’t dick around with names in the first place: call a rose a rose. It follows that R-74 is a no-brainer, but what really struck me was the stark contrast between the arguments for and against its passage reproduced in the voters’ pamphlet. It is that juxtaposition more than anything else that has solidified my understanding that this bill is not only necessary and proper; but that opposition to it is the basest, most detestable position of any on the ballot this year.

First came the argument for R-74, prepared by a Lutheran bishop, a state senator, two state representatives, and the co-president of the Washington League of Women Voters. I found the following paragraph to be deeply moving:

Think of your own reasons for wanting to marry — you can  imagine why same-sex couples dream of the happiness, security and responsibility of marriage. Same-sex couples may seem different, but when you talk with a committed same-sex couple, you realize they hope to marry for similar reasons as everyone else — to share and build a life together, to be there for each other, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, and to make that special vow before family and friends to be together forever.

Put this way, it seems unconscionable to deny marriage equality. So what has the opposition got? I literally laughed aloud when I read their argument, prepared by one pastor, one state representative, and the President of Preserve Marriage Washington (emphasis mine):

The new marriage law passed did not enact same-sex marriage — it redefined marriage for all, stripping it of its essential man/woman nature and tossing common-sense out the window. Women can now be “husbands” and men can be “wives.” Washington same-sex couples already enjoy full legal equality. The new marriage legislation did not provide any substantive legal rights for gay couples.

So which is it, haters? If this legal measure doesn’t change the legal status of gay couples, why bitch about it? The opposition is correct: the only substantial effect of this bill is to end domestic partnerships as a cost-saving measure by 2014 for anyone 61 and younger since they’ll now be semantically as well as legally indistinguishable from marriages. The importance of this minor distinction is well-expressed by the support:

[Parents] don’t dream of walking their son or daughter walking down the aisle into a domestic partnership. Marriage matters.

The opposition makes their cognitive dissonance even more obvious in their repetitive rebuttal:

Referendum 74 will provide no new legal benefits; it redefines marriage for everyone and has serious consequences for society.

The mind boggles: that really is a single sentence. “No new legal benefits” will have “serious consequences for society”. What consequences? Which aspects of society? Who do these people think they are?

The answer to that question comes from a relative analysis of the paragraphs concerning God in the arguments for and against. The support tips its hat to religion with only three sentences, two of which merely summarize semantic protections for religious organizations baked into R-74. The opposition goes to town with eleven religiously motivated sentences, including these gems:

God’s creation of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is the foundation of society and has served us well for thousands of years… Young children were taught about gay marriage in public school… Being opposed to same-sex marriage doesn’t mean you dislike gays and lesbians. It means you support traditional marriage.

The first sentence is false simply false, and Christians ought to know that: Abraham, Jacob, David, and many other Old Testament figures each had two or more concurrent wives. Solomon had hundreds. Notions about public gay marriage education amount to nothing more than hand-waving hysteria. And what does it even mean to dislike someone if you claim that denying them a widely-enjoyed and highly sought-after right on the basis of tradition doesn’t count? The opposition hasn’t a leg to stand on, but their religiosity blinds them to that otherwise obvious fact.

The argument for R-74 is sublime. The argument against can be summarized as ‘oh me oh my, icky poo.’ That we’re even having a debate about this is revolting. I trust that the Washington electorate agrees.

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