Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Judge Tosses Out Rob McKenna's Anti-Gay Ballot Title

Posted by on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 3:18 PM

In a decision that cannot be overruled, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee handed marriage equality advocates a significant victory this afternoon. Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna, whose office is tasked with writing ballot language for all initiatives and referenda, had inserted biased language into a ballot title for Referendum 74, a petition filed by religious activists trying to overturn the state's same-sex marriage law. In McKenna's draft, R-74 was littered with the phrase "redefine marriage," which the National Organization for Marriage has long ballyhooed as its most effective talking point. McPhee struck down that charged statement in favor of language saying the measure would "allow same-sex couples to marry."

McPhee's orger (.pdf) decrees that the ballot title—which includes a statement of subject and concise description—must now read as follows:

Statement of Subject

The legislature passed Engrossed Senate Bill 6239, concerning marriage for same sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom [and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill].

Concise Description

This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnership only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.

Ballot Measure Summary

This bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender, and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnership are converted to marriages, except for seniors. It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies. The bill does not affect affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement.

That new language hews closely to the neutral language requested by marriage-equality advocates trying to uphold same-sex marriage by approving R-74. By nixing McKenna's ballot language and rejecting Protect Marriage Washington's request for even more biased rhetoric against gay partners, Judge McPhee handed marriage equality what could be a decisive victory from swing voters.

Stopping short of an outright celebration, however, Washington United for Marriage's Anne Levinson explained the ruling's importance outside the courthouse. "The attorney general had used language that was prejudicial towards opponents of marriage for same-sex couples," Levinson said. For example, she cites "the use of the phrase 'redefine' in multiple places—and the judge agreed with us by eliminating that term. That is an advocacy term used by the other side."

Credit for the successful appeal goes primarily the League of Women Voters of Washington and the PFLAG of Washington Council, which filed the case. The appeal was argued by Paul Lawrence, the Pacifica Group, Legal Voice, and the ACLU of Washington.

 

Comments (24) RSS

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1
Fantastic news. Paul Lawrence has been a fantastic resource working free on our behalf for so many years. Just fantastic.
Posted by gloomy gus on March 13, 2012 at 3:22 PM · Report this
Dougsf 2
"preserve domestic partnership only for seniors,"

I'm sure someone here can explain exactly what this means. Anyone?
Posted by Dougsf on March 13, 2012 at 3:22 PM · Report this
3
Big first step. Yay Marriage Equality.
Posted by SeattleKim on March 13, 2012 at 3:25 PM · Report this
4
@2, Domestic partnerships have been used not only by same-sex couples, but by older het couples who would lose retirement benefits from dead spouses. This exemption would allow couples (same sex or opposite sex) who are 62 and older to remain in a domestic partnership without it automatically being converted to a marriage.
Posted by SeattleKim on March 13, 2012 at 3:27 PM · Report this
5
@2 Domestic Partnership is important for seniors because getting married can cause some of their survivor and other benefits to lapse.
Posted by One way old folks helped marriage equality on March 13, 2012 at 3:28 PM · Report this
6
This is a GREAT reason to vote for Jay Inslee for Governor. I'm not comfortable with public officials who want a say in my personal life.
Posted by Ben Schiendelman on March 13, 2012 at 3:30 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 7
Also, fuck you, McKenna. This is exactly the kind of biased, partisan bullshit that the old centrist McKenna of a decade ago promised to avoid. You want to insert yourself into a culture war and prevent me from getting married? I promise to do everything within my power to prevent you from becoming governor. Your hard turn to right-wing nutter land will not go unchallenged in the fall.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on March 13, 2012 at 3:36 PM · Report this
Baconcat 8
Can't wait to APPROVE R-74. We get marriage equality AND preserve the nation's most progressive partnership right for seniors.
Posted by Baconcat on March 13, 2012 at 3:36 PM · Report this
9
A MASSIVE THANK YOU and congratulations to: League of Women Voters of Washington and the PFLAG of Washington Council, which filed the case. The appeal was argued by Paul Lawrence, the Pacifica Group, Legal Voice, and the ACLU of Washington.

You've just brought us one step closer to eliminating institutional bigotry. Awesome work, I'm very proud! I will make a sizable donation to each organization as a thank you for helping out all of our gay & lesbian friends and family (yes, WE ALL have gay & lesbian friends and family, you just don't know who they are because they fear prejudice)...
Posted by scratchmaster joe on March 13, 2012 at 3:41 PM · Report this
10
baconcat - hopefully they won't get enough valid signatures - and we won't need to vote on the issue!
Posted by cathern on March 13, 2012 at 3:51 PM · Report this
Dougsf 11
@4/5 - Thank you. I was totally ignorant of this aspect of the battle.
Posted by Dougsf on March 13, 2012 at 4:12 PM · Report this
passionate_jus 12
Does anyone know if Equal Rights WA or WA United for Marriage is going to attempt a "decline to sign" campaign against these bastards?
Posted by passionate_jus on March 13, 2012 at 4:30 PM · Report this
Baconcat 13
@12: No, they aren't. They said so at this weekend's town hall. It looks like a decline to sign would hurt the margin and that's not something you want to do if you're anticipating a close battle.

What they're urging people like you to do is to pledge to Approve R-74 on their website, http://washingtonunited.org, and have your family do the same. The more we get this pledge out the better our chances of showing enough strength to the other side that some of their softer supporters might rethink signing a petition if they think it might pass.
Posted by Baconcat on March 13, 2012 at 4:52 PM · Report this
14
Great to see that not all judges in Washington are as right-wing as Rob McKenna.
Posted by Sloggerita on March 13, 2012 at 5:39 PM · Report this
15
I actually voted for Rob McKenna both times for Attorney General because I thought he was more qualified than his Democratic opponents and that he wouldn't play the role of ideologue. Now I'm not sure I'd vote for him again.
Posted by floater on March 13, 2012 at 5:55 PM · Report this
16
By The Stranger standards, I'm an arch-conservative, and I kind of think that in the grand scheme of things, gay marriage is not that big of a deal compared to some other issues in this country

BUT

Jesus, even I can see through that bullisht language. C'mon, if you want me to vote that marriage is male-n-female only, you need to make a compelling fact based case, not just appeal to my resistance to change.
Posted by fetish on March 13, 2012 at 6:15 PM · Report this
17
What Reverse Polarity (#7) said! X(
Posted by strandgeist on March 13, 2012 at 8:42 PM · Report this
18
My big problem with this is that they are taking away the rights of clergy to decide who they would like to preform a ceremony for! Really??? I thought we fight for our right to choose around here! If you want the right to choose to marry who you want the clergy should get the right to choose whether or not they would like to preform the ceremony, it goes both ways!!!
Posted by Dimples on March 13, 2012 at 11:19 PM · Report this
19
I know, I said preform instead of perform. Oops
Posted by Dimples on March 13, 2012 at 11:25 PM · Report this
20
Dimples, no one will EVER be forced to perform the ceremony. This is the concise description from Judge McPhee.

"This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnership only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony."

You don't lose any rights. We just make the law fair for everyone. With liberty and JUSTICE FOR ALL.

Posted by JustBMarks on March 14, 2012 at 12:27 AM · Report this
21
Dimples----you need to go back and read what it says....in case you don't find it----"It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies." NOBODY"S right to marry or not has been trampled on!

Time to go back to school for reading lessons!
Posted by educator on March 14, 2012 at 1:16 AM · Report this
22
Dimples----you need to go back and read what it says....in case you don't find it----"It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies." NOBODY"S right to marry or not has been trampled on!

Time to go back to school for reading lessons!
Posted by educator on March 14, 2012 at 1:21 AM · Report this
23
Those of us close to this know how hard the legal team worked- long hours, sometimes through the night and on week ends- to bring all this together. Anne Levinson was amazing as an organizer and Paul Lawrence was amazing as he responded to each point with precision and focus. Many will never know how much our families owe these people. Now it is our task to make Washington United for Marriage take a place in history as a successful organization moving us forward for justice. It will take everyone this time. A shout out to the League of Woman Voters who have stood up for democracy through the years. PFLAG love you... but you all know that:)
Posted by meadowkat on March 14, 2012 at 8:48 AM · Report this
24
We're all going to hell for acting like "gay" and "marriage" are two words that belong together.
Posted by bbfan on March 16, 2012 at 6:12 PM · Report this

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