OLYMPIA, Wash. (BP) — Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a gay “marriage” bill Monday, hoping to see the state become the seventh to allow gays to “wed” but also knowing that a signature drive could put the issue on the November ballot.
The law is scheduled to take effect June 7, but it won’t go into effect at all if churches and traditional groups are successful in collecting 121,000 valid signatures by June 6 opposing the law — and then getting voters to side with them in November.
The Washington state House approved it, 55-43, the Senate, 28-21. Democrats control both chambers. Gregoire also is a Democrat.
Washington is one of several states that allow citizens to gather signatures to reject laws passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. Traditional groups say the law threatens religious liberty.
“We ARE going to exercise our right to referendum and reject this law,” an email from the Family Policy Institute of Washington said even before Gregoire signed it.
Washington traditionalists hope to copy what church groups in Maine did in 2009, when the governor signed a gay “marriage” bill, only to see voters reject it, 53-47 percent. They have launched a website — PreserveMarriagewashington.com.
“Ultimately the people will decide on marriage [in Washington],” Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, previously told Baptist Press. “And in 31 out of 31 states, they’ve voted not to redefine marriage, and we don’t expect that Washington will be any different.”
It figures to be a busy year nationwide in the political and legal struggle over marriage’s definition:
— In Maine, gay activists apparently have collected enough signatures to place a referendum on the November ballot that would legalize gay “marriage.”
— In New Jersey, the state Senate passed a bill by a vote of 24-16 Monday (Feb. 13) that would legalize gay “marriage,” sending it to the Assembly. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, has said he would veto it.
— In Maryland, a gay “marriage” bill could be debated on the floor of the legislature in coming weeks. Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley supports it, but, like Washington state, citizens could gather signatures to reject the law.
— In North Carolina (May 8) and Minnesota (November), citizens will vote on constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Gay “marriage” is legal in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Connecticut and Iowa. It also is legal in the District of Columbia.
Based on history, a ballot vote on gay “marriage” in Washington likely will be close. In 2009, a far less controversial law dealing with gay domestic partnerships survived at the ballot, but it was closer than people thought it would be. By a 53-47 percent margin, voters retained the law granting gay couples all the legal benefits of marriage, without the name. Supporters made clear then that the law was simply a stepping stone to gay “marriage.”
If the initiative does qualify for the ballot, traditionalists likely will spotlight two themes that have proven successful in other states: 1) children need mothers and fathers and 2) legalizing gay “marriage” will have negative consequences on religious freedoms and what is taught in elementary schools.
In Massachusetts — where marriage has been redefined — a second-grade class read a book, “King & King,” about a prince who “marries” another prince.
In Vermont, where gay “marriage” is legal, the ACLU sued a bed and breakfast after it declined to host a same-sex “wedding” reception. Illinois saw a similar lawsuit, when a male couple filed a discrimination suit against two bed and breakfasts that refused to host their civil union ceremony.
“Marriage is the union of one man and one woman for good reason,” Backholm said. “Marriage is society’s way of bringing men and women together so that children can be raised by, and cared for by, their mother and father — the people responsible for bringing them into the world. It is the most-important, child-focused institution of society and we will fight to preserve it. Voters will have the opportunity to define marriage in our state.”
Despite what supporters of gay “marriage” argue, mothers and fathers are not “interchangeable and replaceable,” Backholm said.
Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter(BaptistPress), Facebook(Facebook.com/Baptist Press) and in your email(baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).