The Power of Telling Our Stories Demonstrated: Washington’s Senate Ignored NOM’s Threats and Passed the Marriage Equality Bill

Tonight we witnessed the power of simply telling our family, friends and legislators why marriage equality is important to us and our families. After an incredibly respectful debate, the Washington state Senate has passed the marriage equality bill on a bipartisan vote of 28 to 21. The House is expected to vote on the bill as early as Friday, and Gov. Gregoire is eager to sign it.

“I was moved by my colleagues’ courage, and the tone of the debate was one of the best I’ve seen in 17 years in the Legislature,” said bill sponsor Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle).

Republican senators voting for the bill were Sen. Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island), Sen. Cheryl Pflug (R-5, Maple Valley), Sen. Joe Fain (R-47, Auburn) and Sen. Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond). The roll call can be viewed here.

While we have been winning allies on both sides of the isle by telling our stories of love, commitment and family, our opponents have chosen to brow-beat and outright threaten those who disagree with them. Below the fold are a few examples of the opposition’s brutal approach that clearly fell flat with the Senate and is unlikely to win any friends in the House either.

Pastor Ken Hutcherson is the official spokesperson for the coalition opposing Washington’s marriage equality bill. When Gov. Chris Gregoire announced her support for the bill last month, Pastor Hutcherson likened her to President Lincoln’s assassin, saying

She might as well change her name to John Wilkes Booth because what she’s doing now is trying to put a bullet in the head of one of the greatest traditions that has ever existed and has built our society, and that is marriage between one man and one woman.

Just days later Hutcherson posted this astonishing statement on his website:

[T]he only way to make your enemy a friend is to defeat them or kill them.

The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage landed hard and heavy in Olympia last week when they unleashed on the legislature Jennifer Roback Morse, the president of their Ruth Institute. Roback Morse is not a Washington voter. She flew in from California like some kind of self-appointed avenging angel who thought she could intimidate Washington’s legislators by threatening to hold them accountable for imaginary misdeeds. Here are some excerpts from her testimony before a Senate legislative committee:

History will not be kind to you. Previous generations of social experimenters have caused unimaginable misery for millions of people. Particular people advocated the policies that led to today’s 50% divorce rate and 40% out of wedlock childbearing rate. None of these people has ever been held accountable.

I am here today to hold you to account, for the predictable harms you have already caused and will continue to cause by redefining marriage. …

Under the inspiration and guidance of people like you in other states, courts are saying silly things…

Whether you’re ready or not, I hold you accountable. …

The only argument you have is so-called “equality.” …Far from limiting the power of the state, your version of equality has become a tool for the hostile takeover of civil society by the state. …

The thin disguise of marriage equality will not mislead anyone, nor will it atone for the wrong this day done.

Apparently emboldened by NOM’s threat to throw out-of-state cash at Washington to pay for a referendum campaign and to attempt to unseat pro-equality legislators, Joseph Backholm chose to blatantly threaten rather than persuade legislators:

We’re fond of saying around here that they [Washington state legislators] really don’t care what you think until they know that you can take their job away.

Backholm’s organization even got menacing on their Facebook page today, saying

The State Senate is expected to vote on legislation to redefine marriage today. Psalms 9:19-20: Arise O Lord, do not let man prevail; Let the nations be judged before You. Put them in fear, o Lord; Let the nations know that they are but men.

Since there are no rational arguments against civil marriage equality, I suppose threats and intimidation are all the opposition has left. Whatever the opposition’s reasons for using these tactics, Washington’s legislators aren’t falling for them. You can’t bash your way to persuasion.

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