Ref.74 sends marriage equality bill to voters

Opponents of the equal marriage law turned in 232,000 signatures in order to postpone gay marriage in Washington. The marriage law would have gone into effect on June 7 had there been no opposition.

The original bill, signed by Governor Christine Gregoire on Feb. 13, would completely legalize gay marriage. In order to put the issue on the November ballot, those opposed to the bill must get at least 120,577 signatures of registered voters, which opponents of same-sex marriage successfully received.

Referendum 74, which will be on the ballot, states that it 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.”

If Referendum 74 is approved, gay marriage will be legal in Washington.

In 2009, Referendum 71, the “everything but marriage” law, was approved. This law gave same-sex couples in domestic partnerships more rights. Its purpose was to make same-sex domestic partnerships have equivalent rights as heterosexual marriages.

A representative from Protect Marriage Washington, the organization associated with the initiation of the referendum, did not comment after several attempts of contact.

Steve Puvogel, creator of the website referendum74.org said he believes that there is a possibility that Referendum 74 will be rejected, but that the decision is really up to the people on the fence.

He said that since no other state has upheld marriage equality from a statewide vote, it makes this vote seem more daunting. However, he said Washington voters tend to be tolerant, and that personally, he believes and hopes the referendum will be approved.

“I don’t believe you can [conclude] that Washington is opposed to marriage equality,” he said.

Puvogel said there seems to be a misunderstanding in what the purpose of the state’s role in marriage is. He said that legally, marriage is a “mere contract or partnership that affords some benefits and responsibilities.”

“Two people having a partnership that is different than yours has no more effect on your marriage than if they are of a different religion,” Puvogel said.

Puvogel’s web address was previously used for a campaign for the Referendum 74 signatures. Now that the signatures are approved, the website redirects to a campaign for approving the referendum.

The website is now “Washington United for Marriage,” a coalition of organizations that endorse same-sex marriage.

“As it appears that Preserve Marriage Washington has qualified Referendum 74 for the ballot, a message of ‘Decline to Sign’ is no longer relevant,” Puvogel said.

SPSCC student Matthew Stidham said, “This is a milestone and is going to be only the first in a long line of initiatives to the people where gay marriage is legalized.” Stidham also said President Obama’s support for gay marriage may motivate people to vote for it.