OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington’s voters have had their say, but the passage of Referendum 71 — which expands the rights of registered domestic same-sex partners, may only be the prelude to continued controversy. The statewide vote on the hotly debated Referendum 71 took place last month largely because of the efforts of concerned evangelical Christians. They wanted the electorate, through the referendum, to have the final say on a state law, Senate Bill 5688, that was approved by legislators and signed last May by Gov. Christine Gregoire.
The tally posted on the secretary of state’s web site shows the law approved by 951,822 voters, or 53.15 percent, to 838,842 against, or 46.85 percent. Ten counties in Western Washington, including populous King and Snohomish counties, preferred the measure. All 29 other counties rejected it, including all of Eastern Washington.
“We were very disappointed that SB 5688 will become law,” Gary Randall of Faith and Freedom Network, a leader in the Referendum 71 effort known as Protect Marriage Washington, told Christian News Northwest. “I believe Washington took a wrong turn in approving SB 5688.”
Because of the measure’s passage, Randall predicts that gay-rights activists will — sooner than later — file litigation seeking court recognition of homosexual marriage.
“The stage is set for a lawsuit that will challenge the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, demanding the name ‘marriage’ and probably claiming discrimination because of sexual orientation,” Randall said.
State Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, an openly gay legislator and proponent of homosexual marriage, has said there will be no attempt at gay marriage for at least two years, but Randall is not expecting such restraint. And should any such attempt occur, Protect Marriage Washington will be quick to respond, Randall said.
In the meantime, Randall says, the passage of Referendum 71 “will have an immediate economic impact on the state, and sex education textbooks and lesson plans will soon reflect the further normalization of homosexuality in the classroom and the deconstruction of natural marriage in the culture.
“Unfortunately, a majority of Washingtonians either want that or did not understand the consequences of the decision. It was a very deceptive bill.”
While Protect Marriage Washington expressed disappointment over the outcome, those who sought to preserve the new domestic partnership law expressed their delight at the vote. Murray told The Associated Press that it was “a great step forward for equality in Washington state.”
A separate but related issue to Referendum 71 is whether names and addresses of the referendum’s petition signers will be made public. It is a matter that is ultimately falling to the nation’s highest court to decide.
Citing threats of violence against petition signers and churches, the coalition that placed the referendum on the ballot asked that the names and addresses be sealed. A state panel initially said no, but a federal judge in Tacoma in September ruled to block the release of the information. A three-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled that judge, but a state judge then issued a temporary restraining order until the full written opinion of the 9th Circuit was received.
The whole matter was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in October voted 8 to 1 to keep the restraining order in place for now. The Supreme Court will now decide whether it will hear the case, and that consideration will likely take place in June, said Randall.
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