Just south of Seattle:

A woman who opposed gay marriage was a victim of malicious harassment – Washington’s hate crime law – and the man involved was arrested Tuesday morning, deputies said.

The suspect, who deputies say is gay, saw the woman’s sign to reject Referendum 74 Sunday afternoon in the parking lot of the Burien Safeway. He became offended and allegedly tore off the sign, then shoved another woman who stepped in to help, deputies said.

Preserve Marriage Washington, the campaign attempting to reject marriage equality on the November ballot, raised the allegations earlier this week, before the suspect was arrested. At their press conference, they claimed the man declared, "I'm gay and proud of it," before telling a woman who attempted to intervene to "go back to Africa."

In response to those claims, the pro-marriage-equality campaign manager, Zach Silk, issued this statement yesterday:

Let me be clear. We condemn any act of this sort and we have been explicit with our supporters — we respect everyone, no matter where they stand on Referendum 74. In fact, we sent an email to our entire list in early September calling for respect and restraint, and another to our staff.

Having said that, this sort of claim is, sadly, a well-worn, cynical political tactic by the National Organization of Marriage (NOM) that began in California in 2008 and has been regularly trotted out ever since. They have neatly turned the basic argument — that they and their supporters are subject to harassment — into a near constant lament in the final weeks of these campaigns.

I don't claim to know what exactly happened, of course. And the suspect hasn't been charged. It will be interesting to see if prosecutors agree that these allegations are true. In the meantime, Silk's campaign sent a fact sheet about how this tactic—claiming physical harassment from gay-rights advocates—has been used by same-sex marriage opponents in other states. I've posted it after the jump.

FACT: Allegations Of A “Systematic” And “Coordinated” Intimidation Campaign Against Opponents Of Marriage for Same-Sex Couples Are Unsubstantiated – The Argument Itself Is A Political Tactic.

The opposition’s claims that an intimidation campaign has been waged against them – a common refrain in political campaigns – are unfounded. As noted in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by lawyers for the nation’s leading LGBT rights organizations: “When subjecting a minority group to political attack, a common tactic is to claim that the minority is itself the aggressor from whom protection is required.”
Opponents of the freedom to marry point to allegations of intimidation tactics during the Proposition 8 battle in California as well as the Referendum 71 battle in Washington State – allegations that are not supported by the facts.

Some signers of the petition to put Prop 8 on the ballot in California claimed they were subjected to retaliation. But, as noted in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by lawyers for the nation’s leading LGBT rights organizations: “[T]here is not a single alleged incident of retaliation based on signing a petition opposing legal protections for same-sex couples. The best Petitioners have been able to come up with is that a lesbian couple ‘glared’ at a woman signing their petition and tried (unsuccessfully) to lobby her not to sign by telling her that ‘[w]e have feelings too.’”

Opponents of same-sex marriage alleged that their supporters “became death threat targets,” “feared physical harm to self or family,” and had their property vandalized. But as the lawyers wrote in the amicus brief, “[T]here is no basis for claiming that such incidents, if true, were pervasive or even common – much less part of a ‘well-coordinated’ campaign. … Second, such alleged instances were in large part directed at persons engaged in visible advocacy (or advocacy items, such as yard signs). While this is no excuse, the targeting of leaders and symbols is endemic tomany heated campaigns.”

FACT: A Republican-Appointed U.S. District Judge In California Ruled That Prop 8 Supporters Had “Limited Evidence” That Violence Against Opponents Of Same-Sex Marriage Was Pervasive Or Even Related To Prop 8.

U.S. District Judge Morrison England wrote in November 2011: “Plaintiffs have produced insufficient evidence that the more incendiary events on which they rely were connected to Proposition 8 or to gay marriage at all. Rather, a number of these incidents were directed at the Mormon church, which, though a backer of California’s proposition, may also have been a target for any of a number of other reasons. … [W]hile Plaintiffs can point to a relatively few unsavory acts committed by extremists or criminals, these acts are so small in number, and in some instances their connection to plaintiffs’ supporters so attenuated, that they do not show a reasonable probability plaintiffs’ contributors will suffer the same fate. Given the grand scale of plaintiffs’ campaign and the massive (and national) support they garnered for their cause, plaintiffs’ limited evidence is simply insufficient to support a finding that disclosure of contributors’ names will lead to threats, harassment or reprisals.”

FACT: The Facts Show The Opposite To Be True – Incidents Of Increased Violence and Harassment Against Lesbians and Gay Men Have Been Associated With Ballot Initiatives Aimed At Preventing Marriage for Same-Sex Couples.

According to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations’ 2008 Hate Crime Report, numerous California counties reported increases in hate crimes during and immediately following the Proposition 8 campaign. The report stated: “The public debate around Prop 8 triggered 9 anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) crimes. Five of these crimes were acts of vandalism in which opponents of Prop 8 had their property targeted by homophobic (and in 1 case, anti-black) graffiti. In addition, there were 4 violent crimes.”

A similar increase in hate crimes occurred in Massachusetts in 2007, around the time of a Constitutional convention to discuss outlawing same-sex marriage. According to Fenway Community Health’s Violence Recovery Program, “There were 105 total [hate crimes] reported for 2004 and nearly 1/3 of them occurred during February and March, months when same-sex marriage was the focus of intense debate and demonstrations on Beacon Hill. Several victims reported that their attackers specifically referenced the marriage fight or marriage rights.”