Referendum 74: Legalization of same-sex marriage

Referendum 74 or R74 is a referendum to approve or reject the February 2012 bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state of Washington. The intent of the original bill, Senate Bill 6239, is to end discrimination in marriage based on gender and sexual orientation and to ensure that all persons in Washington enjoy the freedom to marry on equal terms, according to the Washington State Legislature website.

SB 6239 was passed in the Washington State Senate on Feb.1, 2012 with a 28-21 vote. Governor Gregoire signed the bill into law on Feb. 13, 2012, and the law would have taken effect June 7, according to equalrightswashington.org.

However, those against the bill argue that the question should be put to a public vote. More than 250,000 signatures were acquired and turned in to the Washington Secretary of State on June 6, according to preservemarriagewashington.com That was enough signatures to qualify for a referendum, which is submitting to popular vote a measure proposed by the legislative.

SB 6239 does not require churches or religious organizations to perform marriages between gay or lesbian couples, nor does it inflict penalties upon them if they don’t. However, opponents argue that businesses and individuals could face penalties if they do not want to do business with gay couples for marriage ceremonies, according to seattletimes.com.

Supporters of marriage equality claim that allowing same-sex marriage does not change the meaning of marriage. They say that what defines marriage is love and commitment, according to equalrightswashington.org.

“This isn’t changing the definition of marriage. It’s expanding it,” sophomore and Gay Straight Alliance President Audrey Gudeman said.

Opponents of same-sex marriage claim that allowing same-sex marriage redefines marriage as a genderless institution, according to preservemarriagewashington.org.

“Marriage is a sacred union,” sophomore Paige Berdan said. “God created it to be between a man and a woman.”

Supporters argue that state and federal marriage laws provide economic and legal protection for couples and their families, such as visitation rights in hospitals and the ability to transfer property, according to equalrightswashington.org.

However, opponents argue that the domestic partnership law passed in 2007 grants couples about two dozen rights, including hospital visitation and inheritance rights. The law was revised in 2009 with the addition of the “everything but marriage” and was upheld by voters, according to seattletimes.com.

“This isn’t about legal benefits. If you love someone you want to be able to be with them in a recognized way,” Gudeman said. On Nov. 6, voters have the opportunity to either reject R74 and maintain marriage as a union between a man and a woman, or approve R74 to legalize same-sex marriage.

Kendra Stubbs Staff Writer

Contact Kendra Stubbs at kstubbs16@my.whitworth.edu

Same-sex marriage has societal benefits

With just a few days left to register to vote for the upcoming November elections, and only weeks left before Referendum 74 hits state ballots, the issue of marriage equality has become a common debate. However, the arguments against R74 have proven invalid.

On the supporting side, we hear cries for social justice. On the opposing side, we hear pleas for the well-being of children and the maintenance of moral tradition.

Regarding the welfare of children in same-sex families, conservatives enjoy touting the findings of the recent “New Family Structures” survey, which claimed that children of parents who engage in same-sex relationships often suffer long-term psychological consequences.

If protecting children is not reason for restricting loving, committed couples from getting married, then what is? However, experts argue that this study and others like it are methodologically flawed.

For example, Debra Umberson, University of Texas social science professor and a colleague of the primary author of the research, went so far as to call the study an “irresponsible and reckless representation of social science research.” Anecdotal evidence from children of same-sex couples shows us that these children can be just as happy and healthy as those from traditional households.

This is where we come to moral and faith-based arguments. The American Family Association, a self-proclaimed “pro-family organization,” captures a common argument against same-sex marriage in its statement that, “The homosexual movement’s promotion of same-sex marriage undermines the God-ordained institution of marriage and family.”

But this type of religion-based argument doesn’t work in the pluralistic U.S. culture, where the law has no place in determining individual citizens’ choices to, or not to, follow ideals of any given faith.

In other words, the law should not restrict marriage based on religious definitions for the same reasons that denial of the Messiah shouldn’t be taught in public schools.

The same statement from the AFA also claims that Christians must oppose marriage equality because, “The scripture declares that homosexuality is unnatural and sinful.” Later in their argument, they state that same-sex marriage will “lead to the normalization of even more deviant behavior.”

Arguments of sin, along the same lines of the traditional marriage argument, should be excused due to their basis in religion. This is especially true when many progressive denominations condone same-sex marriage.

Even with plurality of the population’s beliefs regarding homosexuality, those who oppose equality would have us hold conservative religious beliefs above all else. But do we really want the law involved in deciding which religion’s ideals we must follow?

We must retain the sweet American freedom which allows us to practice the ideals of whatever faith one believes in, including no faith at all.

By allowing religion to govern on this issue, we open ourselves up to further  legislation based on religious definitions, whether those definitions be Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist or otherwise.

To preserve the spirit of the Constitution, which advocates for unrestricted choice of religion, we must reject faith-based arguments when considering issues of the law.

We must separate faith from government through our vote.

Without proof showing that same-sex marriage harms children, and without faith as a foundation to stand on, there’s no reason not to approve marriage equality in Washington and throughout the United States.

Lindsie Trego

Trego is a junior majoring in journalism and mass communication and English. Comments can be sent to lwagner14@my.whitworth.edu.