On Referendum 71, vote “approved.” There is no good reason to reject it, no reason not rooted in misunderstanding, in unreasonable fear or suspicion, or a misdirected desire that some people not have the same rights and privileges as others.
Referendum 71 tests Senate Bill 5688, the everything-but-marriage bill that this year granted same-sex and senior domestic partners most of the rights and legal obligations of couples in traditional marriage. If we vote “approved” the law will go into effect. Vote “rejected” and the law will be void, and the rights of domestic partners will revert to their previously limited state.
This vote is not about instituting gay marriage. Voting to approve will not establish gay marriage, and voting to reject will not prevent it. That issue will inevitably come around another day. The referendum will decide if couples registered with the state retain the benefits of their contractual relationship, the rights and privileges that should logically come to people in a long-term commitment. These are things most couples take for granted, personal matters like insurance and job benefits, visitation, inheritance, pensions, child custody, parental rights. They are personal rights and obligations that when exercised impact the rest of us not at all.
Gay marriage is another issue. Some supporters of the domestic partnership law and Referendum 71 obviously support it and wish for a law to bring it about. That may happen, but not as a result of Referendum 71. Our elected lawmakers will be asked to decide the issue, and when they do their choice won’t be dependent on Referendum 71’s outcome.
What happens if Referendum 71 is rejected is that rights granted same-sex couples and senior domestic partners will be taken away. It is harder and harder to imagine this as a moral victory, or a purification of our culture, or that it will spare us from another debate we do not wish to have. It will only send us back to the day when legal protections are for some, but not all. That is neither wise nor humane. Vote to approve Referendum 71.
This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Editor and Publisher Rufus Woods, Managing Editor Gary Jasinek and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner.