CommunityPam's House Blend

A Critical Look at Preserve Marriage Washington’s Talking Points

Preserve Marriage Washington, the organization trying to repeal Washington’s new marriage equality law, recently urged supporters to download campaign flyers and hand them out to friends and neighbors. Although the PMW website has long displayed the slogans, talking points and essays provided by its parent organization National Organization for Marriage, the new flyers should indicate which talking points PMW has decided to emphasize in the closing months of the campaign. Let’s have a look at a few of them:

Talking Point 1

R-74 will grant same-sex couples NO new rights whatsoever…Washington law already provides full legal equality for same-sex couples, and the legislature is free to enact additional laws if such are needed. But we do not need to redefine marriage to do so.

Referendum 74 will grant same-sex couples a new right: the right to get a civil marriage license. Same-sex couples won’t have full legal equality until they have the same access to civil marriage licenses that different-sex couples do. This is why bipartisan majorities in the Washington state Legislature passed the marriage equality law and Gov. Gregoire signed it; in the words of PMW, they had determined that “additional laws…are needed”. Washington voters must Approve Referendum 74 in November to uphold the new marriage equality law and put same-sex and different-sex couples on equal legal footing.

Unless Referendum 74 is approved, same-sex couples in Washington would also be deprived of full legal equality under federal law once the federal defense of marriage act is repealed or ruled unconstitutional. This is because the federal government only recognizes civil marriages and not domestic partnerships, so Washington State Registered Domestic Partners would not qualify for the over 1,000 federal rights, responsibilities and benefits available only to married couples. These include filing joint federal income tax returns and qualifying for military family benefits and Social Security survivor benefits.

As for the claim that permitting same-sex couples access to civil marriage somehow “redefines marriage”, laws permitting civil marriage for same-sex couples don’t change the definition of marriage any more than permitting blacks and women to vote changed the definition of voting. What those laws do is extend access to civil marriage to couples of the same sex.

Talking Point 2

Children need a mother and a father.

This is really a veiled complaint that same-sex couples and single parents are raising children, a fact that is unaffected by Washington’s marriage laws. Over 21% of same-sex couples in the Pacific states are raising children. Preventing those couples from marrying does nothing to change this fact, but it does send the children of gay and lesbian parents the unconscionable message that their families are inferior and undeserving of the stability and security that marriage provides. Anyone who truly cares about the welfare of children will want to permit all parents access to civil marriage.

The subtext of “Children need a mother and a father” and similar statements is that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are more likely to turn out to be gay. But as then-Governor of California Ronald Reagan famously said “homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles”. Scientific studies have since supported his conclusion. So too does the realization that the vast majority of gay people were raised by heterosexual parents to be heterosexual, yet they turned out to be gay. Sexual orientation clearly cannot be caught, taught, or coerced.

Talking Point 3

Same sex couples are entitled to respect and to live as they choose, but there is no right to redefine marriage for all society.

This sentence is drawn almost verbatim from National Organization for Marriage’s playbook. NOM considers it the “most effective single sentence” among their talking points because it allows users to sound tolerant while avoiding discussion of their intent: banning access to civil marriage for same-sex couples.

Contrary to the talking point, NOM and PMW do not want same-sex couples to be able to live as they choose. If they did, they wouldn’t be trying to bar their access to marriage licenses.

But it’s not just a disagreement over civil marriage. NOM and PMW oppose any kind of legal recognition for same-sex couples. PMW’s chairman Joseph Backholm actively opposed the passage of Washington’s domestic partnership law, and NOM financially supported the anti-domestic partnership campaign.

As far as “redefining marriage for all in society”, even Mr. Backholm admits that the marriages of heterosexual couples will not be affected if Referendum 74 is approved. In a recent interview, Publicola asked Mr. Backholm: “Can you point to any of the states where gay marriage is legal—say, in Massachusetts or New York or Vermont—and say that straight marriage has been eroded and hurt or affected by gay couples?”

Mr. Backholm answered: “You know, my relationship with my wife or anybody’s relationship with their friends or their girlfriends or their spouses or whatever, is not, at the micro level, necessarily going to be affected by what happens.”

The only people affected by same-sex marriage are the couples who enter into one.

H/T David Hart

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Laurel Ramseyer

Laurel Ramseyer