The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which is working to repeal Washington State's new same-sex-marriage law this fall at the polls, rates the following as "the most effective single sentence" a person can use to fight against marriage equality:
"Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose, they don't have the right to redefine marriage for all of us."
And hey, look: There's that poll-tested, NOM-approved "redefine marriage" phrase popping up in Republican attorney general Rob McKenna's suggested ballot language for Referendum 74, which NOM and others are trying to place on the November ballot to repeal the recently passed marriage-equality law.
How'd that happen?
McKenna's office isn't saying.
"The attorney general's office strives to put forth fair and neutral language for every ballot title," says McKenna spokeswoman Janelle Guthrie. "Proponents and opponents have recourse through the courts if they wish to seek changes."
Indeed they do. Already, lawyers for Washington United for Marriage have persuaded a Thurston County Superior Court judge to rewrite McKenna's proposed language for another measure, Initiative 1192, that religious conservatives hope to get on the fall ballot. If passed, I-1192 would reverse what the legislature just did by essentially reinstating a Washington law that until recently defined marriage as being between "one man and one woman."
McKenna's proposed ballot language for I-1192 said it was merely about "the definition of marriage." But Anne Levinson, head of Washington United's legal team, says that McKenna's language "was problematic in that it focused on 'definition' and didn't indicate that it's about the prohibition of marriage for same-sex couples."
Judge Thomas McPhee agreed, changing McKenna's language to make clear what is really at stake. "Initiative 1192 concerns marriage for same-sex couples," reads McPhee's court-ordered new ballot language. (His language also goes on to note that the measure "would prohibit marriage for same-sex couples.")
Levinson will be headed back to court by February 27 over McKenna's proposed R-74 language, which she calls "not as balanced and clear as we would like it to be." Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party is accusing McKenna of "misusing his public office to advance his discriminatory views on marriage equality" via these ballot language recommendations.
For example: The phrase "redefine marriage" does not appear once in the gay-marriage bill signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire on February 13. And referenda—which by definition ask voters to "approve" or "reject" a bill passed by the legislature—are supposed to have ballot language that hews very closely to the language of the actual bill in question. Yet McKenna, who knows this, comes up with "redefine marriage"?
As for the gay-marriage opponents' seemingly odd gambit of trying to put two measures on the fall ballot—R-74 and I-1192—Levinson says there's actually a strategy there. "Voter confusion," she explains. (If both measures get on the ballot and you're wanting to support gay marriage, you'll have to remember to vote "approve" on R-74 and "no" on I-1192).