Washington Politics: Support domestic partnership, R-71
September 27, 2009
Filed under Columnists
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This November, voters could deny basic rights to thousands of Washington State residents. If Referendum 71 does not pass, thousands of same-sex couples in Washington will be denied the right to domestic partnerships.
In May of this year, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5688, which guaranteed same-sex domestic partners the same rights that married couples enjoy. Washington’s constitution includes a referendum process for residents to review measures passed by the legislature.
Almost immediately, opponents of same-sex marriage launched a referendum petition to place the bill on the November ballot. Unfortunately, they succeeded. To salvage the domestic partnership law, voters must approve Referendum 71 (R-71).
The domestic partnership law: known as the Everything But Marriage bill: would have ensured that same-sex couples would be able to visit loved ones in the hospital, take family and medical leave, purchase health insurance and pass down inheritances. The Everything But Marriage act would have helped ensure that all Washington residents: including 12,000 in domestic partnerships: would receive equal protection under the law. The bill would not define same-sex partnerships as marriage.
Sadly, one thing that same-sex couples can count on receiving is hate. Soon after Governor Gregoire signed the bill, the homophobic propaganda machine shifted into high gear. Opponents of same-sex marriage have used a multitude of baseless claims to undermine the Everything But Marriage bill.
Protect Marriage Washington, an anti-domestic partnership group, claims that the bill will “demolish the state’s historical understanding of the definition of marriage” and inevitably lead to state-sanctioned homosexual marriage. This is simply false: the bill intentionally defines domestic partnerships as separate from marriage.
Opponents also make the laughable argument that a domestic partnership law would inhibit religious free speech. A domestic partnership law, they argue, would soon lead to prohibitions on speech against homosexuality. Supposedly, pastors would not be able to preach that homosexuality contradicts religious teachings. Of course, this claim ignores the fact that even bigoted speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Same-sex domestic partnerships have a remarkable ability to instill fear into critics. Some concerned parents are considering pulling their children out of public schools. Protect Marriage Washington laments that teachers will be required to tell students that “homosexuality [is] perfectly normal.” Ken Hutcherson, the remarkably bigoted pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, worries that even home schooled children will be unable to escape “the dangerous homosexual lifestyle.”
These arguments ignore an overwhelming body of evidence showing that homosexuality is normal. Studies have shown that between five and 10 percent of people are homosexual. That means that an average-sized class of 15 to 20 people at Whitman is likely to have at least one gay student.
Furthermore, evidence suggests that sexuality is hereditary. Whether gay or straight, people do not choose their sexual orientation.
Finally, same-sex partnerships do not harm children. Numerous studies have shown that children of same-sex couples do not develop differently from children of heterosexual marriages. In fact, banning domestic partnerships harms children of same-sex couples by denying them state benefits available to other children.
The backlash against domestic partnerships has exposed Washington’s bigoted underbelly. Same-sex partners deserve the same rights accorded to heterosexual couples. Voters often dismiss off-year elections as unimportant, but Referendum 71 demands our attention. This November, protect the basic rights of same-sex couples by supporting Referendum 71.