Earlier this month, as I made my way up Riverside Ave. after a forum at the Spokane Club on same-sex marriage, I did what most journalists do best. I eavesdropped.
Three well-dressed people in front of me had just heard the same discussion I had — Bishop Blase Cupich on how same-sex marriage could open a pandora's box of other marriage possibilities vs. City Councilman Jon Snyder on why legalizing same-sex marriage will curb discrimination — and were talking about how they'd vote. The woman in the middle asked the others if the referendum would allow immediate relatives to marry. She was fine with gay people getting married, she told them, but had gotten the impression that if Washington's R74 passes, a father could marry his daughter. She just couldn't stomach that.
Let's be clear: despite any slippery slope argument against it, R74 (read it yourself here) says nothing about extending marriage to people who are related, people who want to marry their pets or more than two people — just same-sex couples.
If you've seen this pro-R74 ad, you may be getting fuzzy facts too. Washington state's domestic partnership law already affords same-sex couples the same rights as married couples, including access during medical emergencies. So, to imply that R74 provides more legal rights during those times is deceptive.
Because of soundbites like those, we knew we had to clear up some facts when we wrote this week's cover story on same-sex marriage in Washington state. (A couple big ones: R74 does not offer any new legal rights to same-sex couples. It does protect pastors who want to refuse to marry same sex couples.) And if you've heard arguments about the effect on small business owners who won't want to participate in a same-sex ceremony, we've explored that too.
Since it's an emotional fight on both sides, we also wanted to help you understand the real people who are on the battlefield here and what's at stake for them. In the story, you'll hear from two same-sex couples in Spokane as well as the leader of the national opposition movement and a local pastor who worries about the effects of legalizing same-sex marriage.
Marriage equality is big news across Washington and across the country. Gallup is asking about it. So are ballot measures in Maine, Maryland and Minnesota. Yet, while societal acceptance of same-sex relationships is up, marriage equality efforts have failed in all 32 states where they've been put to a public vote.
If you're a Washington voter, you'll be next to decide on this issue. It's worth knowing the facts.