As mentioned previously, it's Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna who gets the first shot at writing a ballot title and summary for R-74, the effort to overturn our state's new gay marriage law.
Which, of course, has many gay rights advocates concerned given McKenna's stated opposition to gay marriage.
"We're watching Rob McKenna closely," Zach Silk, of Washington United for Marriage, told me last week. "As we all should."
Today brings McKenna's proposed ballot title and summary, which—affirming Silk's earlier concern—mirrors talking points rated "most effective" by the conservative National Organization for Marriage, a group that's backing the marriage law repeal effort and threatening to fund primary challengers for Republican lawmakers who voted for the bill.
Ballot Title The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage [and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill.]
This bill would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry, modify existing domestic-partnership laws, allow clergy to refuse to solemnize or recognize marriages and religious organizations to refuse to accommodate marriage celebrations.
Should this bill be
Ballot Measure Summary The bill would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry, apply marriage eligibility requirements without regard to gender, and specify that laws using gender-specific terms like “husband” and “wife” include same-sex spouses. Clergy could refuse to solemnize or recognize any marriages. Religious organizations and religiously affiliated educational institutions could refuse to accommodate weddings. The measure would not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement. Domestic partnerships for seniors would be preserved.
But, as it turns out, the phrase doesn't appear anywhere in the bill just passed by the legislature, and normally referendum ballot titles must hew very closely to the legislature's language.
"This is the first of many steps to write the referendum language," Silk cautions. "We will fight to make sure the language is fair, balanced and accurate. The attorney general's proposal has some obvious flaws."
Next move: The Washington United for Marriage legal team, if it wants to change this language, will have to take the proposed ballot title and summary (and, by extension, McKenna) to court.