Preserve Marriage Washington, the group leading the charge against Referendum 74 to legalize same-sex marriage, conceded today.
In a statement about the vote, Chairman Joseph Backholm called his group's campaign one "based on honesty and integrity." But now that the ballot measure is decided — and marriages are set to begin in early December — supporters and opponents are scrambling to frame it their way.
The measure is currently leading by just less than 4 percent, by no means a landslide. Marriage equality activists say this victory is a sign of the times, like the votes to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine and Maryland and the defeat of a constitutional ban on it in Minnesota.
"We've definitely moved the dial on the West Coast," Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, the group that fought for R-74, told The Inlander on Election Day. "This obviously has implications for how our neighbors will go forward and how the Supreme Court will understand this issue."
"This is an historic day for Washington, an historic day for our country and, most of all, for families across the state who have dreamed of this day," Silk added in a statement today.
But Backholm and the opposition refuse to portray the vote as anything bigger than one state's heathenism.
"Our opponents and some in the media will try to portray this election as a turning point, but it’s not a turning point to win on your home turf," Backholm says in the concession statement. "The election results reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in this very liberal and secular state. The results show only that in a deep blue state, with a huge financial advantage, gay marriage activists can win—barely. Further, the results indicate that a significant percentage of Washington voters are troubled by redefining marriage. Washingtonians know that women and men are not interchangeable—that children need both a mother and a father—and this election does not represent a sea change in their understanding of that reality."
Indeed, R-74's slim margin of victory came from the state's more liberal West side. Here's a county-by-county breakdown of the yays and nays. (You'll see Spokane County voted against it 56.8 to 43.2.)
Zooming in a bit further, the county's by-precinct breakdown shows, not surprisingly, more support for R74 inside city limits than in outlying areas. (The Spokesman had a map showing that this morning.)
For gay rights activists, that's bittersweet.
"It's both amazing and sad," says Corey Fortune, one of the people we featured in our cover story on the issue. Fortune and his fiancé Johnny Quinn plan to get married next summer. "Amazing for obvious reasons, but sad that it was such a small margin. We knew it would be close, but it's hard to prepare yourself to see that 48% of the voters see us as less than equal."