Personal stories define Referendum 74 discussion
September 25, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
In the moments before the state Senate voted on a landmark same-sex marriage bill Feb. 1, Dana Alixander joined other supporters in the gallery overlooking the chamber.
“I was there, waiting for history to happen — and terrified that it wouldn’t,” she said in a recent interview.
Legislators, after impassioned debate, passed the bill and sent the measure to the state House of Representatives for consideration. In February, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the legislation as supporters looked on from the packed State Reception Room at the Capitol.
The measure, Referendum 74, goes before voters on the November ballot. Opponents to the same-sex marriage law gathered enough voter signatures to put the measure before the electorate.
R-74 is the centerpiece in a high-dollar, high-profile contest in the national battle between same-sex proponents and foes.
Alixander headed to Olympia to support marriage rights — a long-running fight for the Sammamish resident and partner of 22 years, Sage. (In 2008, Sage and Dana got married in California before Proposition 8 outlawed same-sex marriages there.)
“In Western Washington, even without marriage rights, we have more rights than a lot of people in the country do when it comes to protection for families,” Sage Alixander said. “We want to preserve that and we also want to fight for what we feel is the ultimate, fair conclusion, which is marriage equality.”
Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage.
What to know
Read the initiatives, plus supporting and opposing arguments, in the 2012 General Election Voters’ Guide at www.secstate.wa.gov.
In 2009, Washington state voters passed Referendum 71 and enacted a domestic partnership law — or “everything but marriage” law.
Voters in the 5th and 41st legislative districts endorsed R-71 as the measure garnered 53 percent support statewide. In Issaquah, 65 percent of voters approved the measure.
Maine, Maryland and Minnesota also have same-sex marriage measures on the November ballot.
“If we vote to redefine marriage, we would become the first jurisdiction in the history of civilization to do so,” said Joseph Backholm, a leader of R-74 opponent Preserve Marriage Washington. “No group has ever gotten together and decided that marriage is a relationship involving people of the same gender.”
Ben Crowther, a Skyline High School graduate and Klahanie resident studying at Western Washington University, said the most common question from voters is about ballot language.
“Most folks that I talk to support the freedom to marry, and they just want to know how to vote,” he said.
Cheryl Pflug, a former state senator for Issaquah, likened the quest for same-sex marriage to the civil rights movement.
“Do you ever think about if you had been on the bus with Rosa Parks?” Pflug, a key Republican supporter of same-sex marriage in the Senate, said in a recent interview. “I don’t know how brave I would have been in that situation, to be perfectly honest. There’s so much you have to overcome about your personal perspectives. I knew by the time that we took the vote that this would be something in 10, 20 years we’d all look back on.”