OLYMPIA, Wash. --- The campaign seeking to overturn Washington state's "everything but marriage" homosexual domestic partnerships law is being outraised 13-to-1 but nonetheless trails by only three points in a new poll.
The SurveyUSA poll of 548 likely voters, conducted for Seattle's KING-TV, shows Referendum 71 passing, 45-42 percent, with 13 percent undecided. A vote to "approve" the referendum would keep the law in place, while a vote to "reject" it would overturn the new law, which was signed by Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire in May but has yet to take effect.
Conservatives in the state oppose the law on moral grounds but also warn it will be used -- as happened briefly in California -- as a stepping stone to legalize "gay marriage."
The poll was released Oct. 6, four days after Microsoft donated $100,000 to Washington Families Standing Together, the campaign seeking to approve Referendum 71 and protect the law, which grants same-sex couples all the legal benefits of marriage minus the name.
The Microsoft donation was easily the largest one to either campaign to date. According to the state's Public Disclosure Commission, Washington Families Standing Together has raised $779,104, while Protect Marriage Washington -- the conservative group looking to defeat the referendum -- has raised $60,114. Of those totals, Washington Families Standing Together has spent $207,361, while Protect Marriage Washington has spent $36,116.
Washington Families Standing Together has yet to air its first television ad, although one of its allies, Equal Rights Washington, has begun airing a 60-second TV ad that doesn't mention Referendum 71 but does include a personal testimony from a lesbian defending the state's domestic partnership law, the Advocate magazine's website reported. The ad cannot mention the referendum because Equal Rights Washington is a nonprofit, the magazine said. The organization is raising money on its website to keep the ad on the air.
Conservatives are battling not only corporations and a lack of campaign cash but also the statewide media. The editorial boards of The Seattle Times and The Olympian newspapers endorsed Referendum 71 over the weekend.
Protect Marriage Washington is seeking to flood the state with campaign signs and literature, and it's also depending on a large turnout by church members. The campaign is asking pastors to insert flyers in church bulletins and to urge their members to oppose Referendum 71.
"If ministers of the Christian faith will act now, we will win," Larry Stickney, campaign manager of Protect Marriage Washington, wrote in an e-mail to supporters.
Scott Brewer of Redmond, Wash., previously told Baptist Press he will be voting to reject the new law because the issue is "not about bigotry against gays but about support for traditional marriage." Brewer is pastor of Meadowbrook Church, a congregation in Redmond affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
"Washington State's recent legislative effort known as S.B. 5688 claims that the intent is to expand benefits for domestic partnerships," Brewer said in an e-mail interview. "Many fair-minded citizens would agree that both heterosexual and homosexual relationships should enjoy the rights to visit a sick loved one in the intensive care unit of a hospital or pass on shared assets at the time of death. … But S.B. 5688 goes beyond these ideas and contends (180 times in 112 pages) that 'marriage shall apply equally to state registered domestic partnerships.' In other words this is a redefinition of marriage."
The bill that Gregoire signed makes the terms "husband" and "wife" gender neutral and "applicable to individuals in state registered domestic partnerships."
The Protect Marriage Washington website includes several "talking points," including:
-- "If Senate Bill 5688 is allowed to stand, Washington will immediately become subject to litigation by same-sex partners demanding the courts overturn our state's Defense of Marriage Act and impose 'same-sex marriage.'"
-- "Senate Bill 5688 includes the phrase, 'marriage shall apply equally to state registered Domestic Partnerships' over a hundred times."