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Join the Impact

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Posted by willow On May - 21 - 2009

Referendum 71 and Washington’s Domestic Partnership Rights

The Washington State Legislature passed the Domestic Partnership expansion bill of 2009 and Governor Gregoire signed it into law.  This is the third element in a three year plan to deliver all the same state rights and obligations of marriage to same sex couples. The Domestic Partnership registry also provides a legal framework for heterosexual senior citizens 62 and older.  Domestic Partnership registries are popular among senior citizens because they protect their relationships at the state level while still permitting them to enjoy the benefits of social security income from a previous spouse.

I attended the signing ceremony on Monday, May 18 in Seattle, Washington along with hundreds of gays, lesbians, and allies.  About 30 or 40 children were present.  I overheard an 11 year old boy interviewed by a KOMO radio news reporter.  He said, “Now the state knows what I have know for a long time.  My family is legitimate.” It was a moment I will never forget.

The Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill was step three in a three year process to bring over 450 rights to LGBT families. While the strategy was criticized by some in the community who wanted instant gratification, it was a strategy that proved to be a winner.  According to Senator Ed Murray and Representative Jamie Peterson who have sponsored the bills, we are now poised to press for full marriage equality in name and law in Washington.

Before we can go for full marriage equality though, Washington residents must protect equality from a Referendum attempt.  A group of fringe right wing extremists are attempting to put Referendum 71 on the ballot.  To do so, they must  120, 577 signatures by July 25, 2009.  If they are successful voters will have to vote to “Affirm” the Domestic Partnership law to protect equality.  It will undoubtedly be very confusing to many voters who want Domestic Partnerships. Check out the Secretary of State’s website to see how Referendum 71 would appear on the ballot.

Our opponents face an enormous challenge.  Immediately following their threat, Join the Impact, Equal Rights Washington, Fuse, the GSBA,the Labor movement, and many others, joined together to ask Washington voters to Decline to Sign 71.  I formed a facebook group and within the first few days nearly 100 people registered per hour.  Now we have approximately 6000 facebook pledges to decline to sign referendum 71 spread over two groups and a fan page  Equal Rights Washington has tens of thousands more.

We are united in Washington to Decline to Sign 71 while our opponents are fumbling to find their voice. Washington law requires each signature sheet to present the entire bill.  Each sheet can only hold 20 signatures and the bill is 100 pages long.  The cost to produce the petition is astronomical and the physical challenge of carrying it around is laughable.  According to a University of Washington poll, well over 70% of Washington voters support some form of legal recognition for same sex couples.  In short, our opponents will drain their war chests against a battle that seems largely over. By their own admission it will take “a miracle from God” for them to win.  Traditional anti-equality groups have withdrawn support because of the daunting challenge, leaving a splintered fringe group with little to no chance of winning.

However, whenever our community is under attack we need to take it seriously.  So for now please join me and others by asking your friends and neighbors to Decline to Sign 71 so that we can realize equality as quickly as possible.

Together we will make an IMPACT!

Joe Mirabella, who authored this post, is the Washington State Community Organizer for Join the Impact. He and his fiance Joe Brokken are engaged to marry in their home state Iowa this summer. Joe works as a professional writer and content developer for an online retailer.

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