Washington State is having a Referendum. Referendum 71. The voters
are being asked to approve or reject Washington's new law that
provides 'all-rights-but-marriage' to couples in domestic partnerships
who are either same-sex couples of any age or opposite-sex couples one
of whom is at least 62 years old. It states in part:
"'For all purposes under state law ... state-registered domestic
partners shall be treated the same as married spouses.'" NYT
California and New Jersey have similar laws, each by virtue of a
Supreme Court decision. The New Jersey Supreme Court gave the New
Jersey legislature the option to enact either same-sex marriage or
'all-rights-but-marriage' legislation after ruling that same-sex
couples were entitled to equal protection under New Jersey's
Constitution, and legislature chose the former.
And California's Supreme Court, while ruling that the people had a
right to outlaw same-sex marriage via Proposition 8, stated in the
strongest possible language that the only effect Proposition 8 would
have would be to deny the use of the term 'marriage' to same-sex
couples; they would still be entitled to all rights and privileges
other married couples had via California's domestic partnership
The truth of the matter is that 'separate is not equal'. There have
been numerous problems reported in both New Jersey and California,
with same-sex couples being denied status and benefits given to
married couples, despite the law.
Be that as it may, those who wish to legalize same-sex marriage in
Washington State believe that the path of gradualism -- first a weak
domestic-partnerships law in 2007, then a stronger one in 2008, and
penultimately the 'all-rights-but-marriage' law enacted in 2009 -- is
the way to eventually get to the gold: equal marriage rights.
However a monkey-wrench was thrown in thes works when, after the 2009
law was passed in May, sufficient signatures were gathered by
opposition forces and submitted on July 25th to qualify a Referendum
to approve or reject the new statute.
The opposition position, espoused by Gary Randall of Protect Marriage
Washington, is that the new law
"... is a bridge to gay marriage."
Which, for all intents and purposes, it is. (Proponents are arguing
around the point, saying that marriage is a question for another day;
that today couples need the protections guarenteed by the new law).
Then you have others, such as Washington State Senator Val Stevens,
who are a bit more direct as to why they oppose the measure:
"Are the homosexuals finally going to take control of our culture and
push their depraved lifestyle on our children and families?"
(I'm guessing that would be a 'no'. But Washington still has some
lumberjacks, and for all we know they, like their British Columbian
counterparts, may lead depraved lifestyles):
Every poll to date has shown the law being approved, i.e.,
'all-rights-but-marriage' status being sustained. Three of the latest
polls are a GQR poll (53% - 36%), a Survey USA poll (50%-43%), and
the Washington Poll (56%-39%).
It would be extremely surprising if the actual results tallied otherwise.
The result of a defeat for equal rights would not be as devastating as they will be if Maine rejects equal marriage rights, but it would still be demoralizing to those leading fights elsewhere. (Couples in domestic partnerships in Washington will still retain their rights under the 2007 and 2008 laws if voters reject the 2009 law).
The election results themselves may not be known for some time.
Washington has opted to go with all-mail voting, and ballots only have
to be postmarked by November 3rd. So all the ballots will not have
arrived to be counted on the evening of November 3rd. If those that
are counted that evening don't produce a clear winner, it may take
many days to figure out which side won.