Washington marriage equality updates: mini-DOMA referendum fails to qualify for ballot, churches remain divided
July 5, 2012
By Jacob Combs
In early June, opponents of marriage equality in Washington state succeeded in collecting enough signatures to qualify a ballot measure called Referendum 74, which would ask the state’s voters to approve or rescind a marriage equality bill passed early this year. But while Referendum 74 received a lot of media attention, Stephen Pidgeon, an anti-gay Republican candidate for attorney general, was also working behind the scenes to qualify another lesser-known measure, one that would amend the language of the state’s marriage so that it read that marriage was between “one man and one woman” instead of “a male and a female.”
This week, The Olympian reported that Pidgeon’s Initiative 1192 had failed to make the ballot, coming up some 140,000 signatures short. “I hate to say it … but we’re just not going to cross the threshold,” Pidgeon told the paper. ”We’re not going to make it. This measure is not going to be on the ballot. Pidgeon used volunteers as opposed to paid signature gatherers in his campaign, and collected only 98,539 signatures, well below 241,153 that were required by law and much less than the 320,000 that election officials recommended.
Pidgeon also told The Olympian that his campaign had been “killed by friendly fire,” accusing supporters of the Referendum 74 signature campaign of sabotaging another anti-marriage equality initiative. If both ballot measures had qualified, there would have been substantial confusion for both marriage equality supporters and opponents on the November ballot: for example, a supporter of marriage equality would have wanted to vote yes on Referendum 74 but no on Initiative 1192. It is likely to both sides’ benefit that only one measure will show up on the ballot.
In addition to the ballot developments, religious institutions in Washington continue to show division regarding the marriage initiative. Breaking from its parent denomination, the United Methodist Church in the Northwest has endorsed marriage equality in Washington and is urging its members to approve Referendum 74 in November. Rev. Rich Lang of the University Temple United Methodist Church, which is supporting Referendum 74, told SeattlePI that his congregation is “basically in rebellion against our denomination.” In an email to congregants, Rev. Sandy Brown of Seattle First United Methodist Church wrote, “Our church will not be deterred by our denomination’s heartless stand on homosexuality. We are out and proud to stand with our LGBT families, friends and neighbors.”
As the summer continues and the fall campaign begins to heat up, we can expect to hear more from religious communities on both sides of the marriage equality issue. Now that Initiative 1192 has officially been unsuccessful in qualifying for the ballot, marriage advocates in Washington can focus squarely on passing Referendum 74 and becoming the first (or maybe one of the first) states in the union to uphold equal marriage rights by a popular vote.