Upholding the Democratic Process or Reversing Legislation?
By Blair Tellers
n May 18, 2009, Governor Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5688 and expanded the rights of stateregistered domestic partners. The bill was considered the next biggest step in the long-term goal of attaining marriage equality for same-sex spouses, and was passed with the hope that full and equal protection under the law for Washington families would ultimately strengthen communities. Before this bill was even signed, however, a proposed ballot initiative, called Referendum 71, was filed on May 4 by a group of conservative and faithbased leaders (aka the Faith and Freedom Network headed by Oregon resident Garry Randall, along with the President of the Washington Values Alliance, Larry Stickney)--and it's deadline day is approaching. If the referendum acquires at least 120,577 signatures by July 25, the domestic-partnership bill will go before voters in November-- which could pose yet another yo-yo-ing of rights for gay and lesbian couples. (Proposition 8, anyone?) On Friday, June 12, supporters of the domestic partnership law gathered in Riverfront Park to speak with passersby's about the "Decline to Sign" petition, which was created by Equal Rights Washington in response to Ref. 71. The group in Riverfront Park consisted of members from Spokane Youth For Equality, who 0
organized the rally. "We really just tried to educate that this bill is primarily about financial rights," says Central Valley High School student Jack Sorensen, who headed the rally. "It was generally a positive response. Most people didn't seem to be affected by the fact that we were trying to establish legal benefits for same sex couples." The next day, Sorensen and the efforts of his fellow members were featured on Gary Randall's blog. "I was flattered," says Sorensen. "Their greatest fear," blogged Randall, "Is that the people will have a voice in legislation that will, for generations, impact the state fiscally and culturally." Sorensen explained that, by no means, is Spokane Youth For Equality against the democratic process. "We simply feel it is not the responsibility of the majority to determine what rights minorities deserve. It's not the right of voters to deem who is equal in the eyes of law," he says. Randall's remark on the "homosexual agenda" is that "lobbyists do not want homosexual marriage before the people for a vote." He does not, however, touch on the fact legislation is a group that we, as registered voters, elected to represent us in the first place. But let's look at the options.
In the event the initiative does make it to the November ballot, voting "yes" for Referendum 71 will actually sustain the original legislature. So, despite the poetic buzz of "Decline to sign Ref. 71," those in favor of gay rights actually do want to put a checkmark under "yes,"--because in this circumstance you'll be voting to sustain the original legislature. The "Decline to Sign" slogan only applies to the current petition of keeping the vote off the ballot. For, in fact, while the initiative was created by groups who are mostly opposed to granting equal rights to same-sex couples, the referendum is, in all technicality, a petition to get the vote back on the ballot. One could argue that Ref. 71 is merely a chance to give Washington voters the ability to vote for themselves--not just legislation. "People need to understand that Ref. 71 is not a petition to repeal the gay rights legislation. It's a petition to repeal it, and then have the people vote on it again in November," says Sorensen. So in reiteration, a "yes" vote on Referendum 71 will be in favor sustaining the original legislature (registered domestic
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