From Walla Walla to Spokane to Vancouver to Tacoma to Seattle, newspaper editorial boards are urging voters to uphold Washington state’s freedom to marry law by voting “Approved” on Referendum 74 this November.

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin editorial reflects the thought progression many Washingtonians have made from believing that domestic partnerships are good enough to realizing that the word ‘marriage’ matters to all loving, committed couples:

More than five years ago Washington lawmakers approved domestic partnerships, which essentially granted same-sex couples…rights identical to married couples.

We felt this everything-but-the-word-marriage approach was good enough.  We balked at endorsing state-sanctioned gay marriage.

Our view changed as the Legislature seriously debated the issue in Olympia.  As the debate unfolded, we came to realize that the time was right to allow marriage of gays.

Domestic partnership was falling short.  The language used does matter.  Calling gay relationships domestic partnerships gives the impression the couple isn’t as committed to each other as married couples would be.

Stating that “It’s not appropriate for citizens to vote on basic civil rights, but since the question is on the ballot, we hope Washingtonians will affirm the courageous and compassionate law adopted by the Legislature last spring,” the The Spokesman-Review  asked readers to recall a turning point in the legislative debate:

During the legislative debate, it was a Republican, Rep. Maureen Walsh, who perhaps put it best:

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“My daughter came out of the closet a couple of years ago. And you know what? I thought I was going to agonize about that. Nothing’s different. She’s still a fabulous human being, and she’s met a person who she loves very much. Someday, by God, I want to throw a wedding for that kid. And I hope that’s exactly what I can do. I hope she will not feel like a second-class citizen involved in something called a domestic partnership, which frankly sounds like a Merry Maids franchise to me.”

Her fears were unwarranted. Now, like many parents, she’d like to celebrate her daughter’s decision. What the opponents of gay marriage have failed to show – because they can’t – is why government should favor their concerns over that of a loving mother.

The Columbian, “rock solid” in their support for the approval of Referendum 74, observed that “many Americans have released any fears that gay married couples pose any threat to anyone anywhere,” and proceeded to demolish the “fear-based arguments against R-74”, including:

One of the most widespread complaints — that R-74 would erode religious liberty — is simply baseless.  No religious institution or member of the clergy is affected in any way by passage of Senate Bill 6239.  The bill is specific in its protection of faith leaders’ right to accept or reject gay marriage. [snip]

Another weak argument is that children somehow suffer when they have same-sex parents.  Numerous studies have shown the opposite.  Parental gender doesn’t matter.  The sharing of love and the teaching of long-held principles of devotion and decency are what really count.

Then there’s the desperate lament that legalizing gay marriage would somehow undermine the institution of marriage.  That institution is threatened by many forces, such as physical abuse, substance abuse, financial destitution and infidelity.  But there’s no indication that marriage-equality movements in several states add to the threat. [snip]

Some will argue that gays and lesbians already have all necessary legal rights, so why do we have to allow them to get married?  That argument defeats itself.  The more logical question: Since gays and lesbians already have all the necessary legal rights anyway, why NOT allow them to get married?  Try as they might, the foes of R-74 cannot provide a compelling answer.

The editors of The Seattle Times invite voters to “approve a law that celebrates the family values that empower the state and respects religious freedom” by “vigorously approv[ing] Referendum 74”.

Washington’s pending law understands, encourages and supports families in all their contemporary expressions.

Marriage is in part about a couple making a public declaration of their private commitment. Washington moved over the years to make the rights, responsibilities and obligations of a civil union available to same-sex couples.

Domestic partnerships were about legal rights and prerogatives. They were essential to the practical aspects of a life together, from hospital visitations to raising a family.

The word lost in the formalities of lawmaking was “love.” One central lesson is that love is patient. Legislators and community leaders built a path toward their goal. In 2009, when the domestic-partnership law was referred to voters, it was strongly approved. [snip]

Over time, it was apparent that expansions of law that provided for “everything but marriage” were incomplete. The goal, the fullest expression of love, was marriage. [snip]

The law behind R-74 moves same-sex marriage from a legal contract to a covenant. Two people in love are empowered with the rights, duties and responsibilities to build a life together as a married couple.

The editors of the Madison Park Times concluded their editorial with the simple statement that “Discrimination is wrong”.

Update 1Tacoma News Tribune‘s editorial board weighs in:

Yes, they [same-sex couples] now can enter into civil unions – the so-called “everything but marriage” status granted by the Legislature in 2008. But that second-class status isn’t really marriage, and both supporters and opponents know it. [snip]

Gays can now serve openly in the military, and that institution has survived; a new study even shows that it has been strengthened by inclusion and equality. We are certain that will be the case with the institution of marriage as well.

Update 2:  “We are grateful that these five leading Washington newspapers have decided to weigh in on the importance of approving Referendum 74, and to make that case early in the process.  Taken together, these five papers represent distinct and very different regions of the state and show how broad and deep the support is for our bipartisan marriage law,” said Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, in a press release about the editorials.

Laurel Ramseyer

Laurel Ramseyer