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R-71 critics got lost in their echo chamber

Post by Kim Bradford on Nov. 5, 2009 at 7:31 pm with 3 Comments »
November 5, 2009 7:04 pm

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

The distinction of being the first state in the nation to approve equality for same-sex couples was supposed to go to the live-and-let-live state of Maine. Instead, it will belong to Washington.

Maine voters repealed that state’s same-sex marriage law by 53 percent to 47 percent this week, handing gay rights supporters a big defeat.

There, but for the grace of King County, would have followed Referendum 71.

As of Thursday afternoon, R-71 had a 50,000-vote lead. It was failing in all but 10 Western Washington counties, with the biggest margin in King County. There, yes votes were more than double the no votes, creating a 100,000-vote spread.

Backers such as this editorial board would like to think that R-71’s passage speaks well of Washingtonians’ sense of fairness and their support for equal rights. It probably does to some extent, but the bigger factor in the election was R-71 opponents’ failure to mount anything resembling a viable campaign.

Opponents of the state’s “everything but marriage” law spent considerable effort getting a referendum on the ballot to give voters a chance to reject the law. They succeeded, only to then cede the fight by failing to recognize the importance of undecided voters.

Supporters of traditional marriage couched their pitch in conservative Christian ideology and then spent the campaign talking only amongst themselves. R-71 might have failed had its critics offered persuadable voters practical arguments that didn’t depend on religious doctrine.

Perhaps trying to run a campaign while also fighting public disclosure and campaign finance battles proved too distracting. Perhaps they were just outmaneuvered by the better organized and politically savvy gay rights camp.

Whatever it was, gay rights supporters should not take comfort in believing that they won this fight. The other side lost it.
State Sen. Ed Murray, the Seattle Democrat who sponsored the law, said Wednesday that the closeness of the race showed that “we still have a lot of work to do.” Indeed.

Leave a comment Comments → 3
  1. jimkingjr says:

    So it is about marriage, as Ed Murray has said? Otherwise why claim a “first” when other jurisdictions have approved gay rights short of marriage?

    And if it wasn’t about marriage, why is there a lot more work to do? This was everything except marriage, wasn’t it? Wasn’t that the goal?

    Anyway, opponents of R-71 lost when they found themselves on an odd-year ballot with significant interest in Seattle and King County on local races- and not quite so much interest on local races elsewhere.

  2. This is not the same place that I moved to and fell in love with 25 years ago. Back then, this Initiative would have passed in a landslide. Hell, they never would have had enough signatures to put it on the ballot.
    Does anyone remember the same type of campaign here in Tacoma about 12 years ago? Proposition 1 failed miserably to do the same thing in Tacoma that they wanted to do in Washington. It was a landslide. But, of course, we had the help of the National GLBT task force in town showing volunteers how to do it. We had Laurie Jinkins and Julie Anderson heading the campaign and we had State leaders like Jeannie Darnielle working the phones, calling Tacoma residents and making sure that they got to the polls.
    Tacoma has lost it’s passion for the fight. We’ve gotten complacent, become accepting that others don’t agree that equal rights for all is the right thing to do.
    This is not the same town that I fell in love with. I certainly won’t stick around and watch it fall further.

  3. Without King County, we’re just Alabama with mountains.

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