As mentioned last week, Republican Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Rob McKenna gets to propose ballot language for initiatives and referenda, and for this fall's gay-marriage-repeal referendum, R-74, McKenna is proposing NOM-approved "redefine marriage" phraseology.
(As in: "This bill would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry... Approve ___ Reject ___ ")
Interestingly, for Initiative 1192, this fall's re-ban-gay-marriage measure, McKenna proposed different language.
"Initiative measure 1192," McKenna's proposed language read, "concerns the definition of marriage."
(As in: "This measure would define marriage as a civil contract between one man and one woman and prohibit marriage when the parties are persons other than one man and one woman... Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ] ")
McKenna's proposed I-1192 language has since been modified by a court after complaints, and his proposed R-74 language is likely to be taken to court too. But McKenna's first instincts on these matters tell us something.
They tell us that allowing gay couples to legally marry, in McKenna's estimation, is a redefinition of marriage. Meanwhile, excluding gay couples from legal marriage, McKenna believes, is merely defining marriage.
What's weird—and what trips us into the somewhat metaphysical realm of whether and when a thing exists—is that presently in Washington State a law already exists allowing gay marriage and repealing our state's 1998 "Defense of Marriage Act" (which limited marriage to one man and one woman). Yes, the new law allowing gay marriage is on hold while opponents gather signatures to try to repeal it via R-74 or invalidate it via I-1192. But nevertheless, the gay marriage law exists—as do plenty of gay couples who got married in other states and countries that allow gay marriage.
So—stay with me here—at least in a metaphysical sense, the time for redefining marriage has long since passed and McKenna has it exactly backwards.
Marriage has already been defined in this state (and in other states and countries) as potentially including a man and a man, a woman and a woman, or a woman and a man. The only re-defining of marriage that might happen (in the sense of re-stating an old marriage definition) would come from passage of the Defense of Marriage Act-reprising I-1192.
To put it another way:
It's Initiative 1192 that re-defines marriage. Referendum 74 merely asks voters about a current definition of marriage.