* We have no idea what these people actually look like. We talked to them over the phone.
On August 31, the Washington Secretary of State's office announced that Christian extremists had gathered enough signatures to put Referendum 71 on the November ballot. Assuming a lawsuit doesn't stop it, R-71 allows the voting public to decide if the legislature was right in recently granting same-sex partners in this state the same rights as married couples. (An "approve" vote on the referendum will put the law into effect; a "reject" vote will nullify it.) Conservatives have long held that they don't have a problem with gay people—they just want to protect "marriage." But R-71 only applies to domestic partnerships. So why are those challenging this law fighting so hard to deny gay people equal rights? Since the state public disclosure commission recently ruled that the names of contributors to Referendum 71 must remain public, we called up four contributors to ask them. These were the first four people we called.
Contribution to R-71: $100
Does James McFadden, a retired pharmacist now living on Mercer Island, just hate gay people? "No, I don't feel that way," he says, pointing out that he thinks gays "should have all the rights that married people have." When told that's what this is about—the referendum is about domestic-partnership rights, not the word "marriage"—he goes on to say that if we were to grant gays equal rights, "gays would be back at the legislature pounding for the right to call it marriage. I strongly believe that marriage is between a man and a woman." Adding to the puzzle of McFadden's logic is his firm conviction that R-71 is a lost cause. "For one thing, Seattle is very pro-gay and very liberal." In fact, he thinks the entire movement is a bust: "Gay marriage is going to happen." Deciphering McFadden's logic is like solving a Rubik's Cube in the dark, but gay people clearly just creep him out. "A penis does not belong in someone's anus. I have seen people with perforated anuses, and they end up with a colostomy bag," he says.
Contribution to R-71: Gathered petition signatures
An evangelical Christian in Olympia, Esther Mayoh circulated petitions at her home bible-study group and her church. Each petition included the exact text of the domestic-partnership bill, which R-71 puts up to a public vote. But Mayoh still doesn't know what it's about. "My main reason is that I don't want our state to, well, to put it bluntly, I don't want our state to legalize sodomy," she says. Asked about why same-sex couples should be denied, say, the right to share insurance coverage or use personal sick leave to care for an ill spouse, she says, "I haven't read that bill." Asked generally why they should be denied the same rights as married couples, she says, "It's a very difficult question. I don't know how to answer it." So do you hate me? "I don't hate you. I love you, and I'd like to help you to see what God really has planned for you. Once you see that and once you know that, then you will have true happiness. In fact, I have—I am sorry to say—I have a sister who is involved in that lifestyle," she says. "But deep down in her heart, she knows it is wrong." Mayoh also has a grown daughter who donated to R-71 and volunteers for the anti-gay faction watchdogging elections workers. "She was a gay person for a while," Mayoh says. "She knew it was wrong, and she suffered much because of what she was doing."
Contribution to R-71: $200
Carrie Vasko, a homemaker in Sammamish, is extremely Christian. She supports R-71, she says, because "I do not believe that marriage—with its long history since the foundation of the world—is to be changed." So do you hate me? "I don't hate homosexuals. I am a person who respects people," she says. "That doesn't mean I agree with other people's actions. I am unhappy with pornography, unhappy with murder, unhappy with drug abuse." Without prompt or transition, her moralizing segues into hypothetical disease scenarios. "If a young person gets HIV early, that's 20 years off their life, and you have to ask if that is the way they want to spend their life." She can't explain how her train of thought goes from marriage to disease, except to say that gays would "still be sexually active outside of marriage." Would she ever go see a lesbian doctor? Vasko is uncomfortable with that idea: "Does her lesbianism cause her to act differently for the patients she cares for?" And she's uncomfortable with the idea of gay teachers in schools: "[School] is there to push math and science, not to push these personal agendas."
Contribution to R-71: $200
Paul Henry, an 84-year-old Christian in Colville, believes gay people are dirty, violent sodomites. Our crusade to achieve rights on parity with marriage is "a direct challenge to the survivability of society," he says. Why does he hate gay people so much? "I don't hate 'em. Actually, they are the ones overturning police cars. When Harvey Milk was shot, the gay people in San Francisco just went crazy. They smashed in store windows and turned over cars. They tried to light fires," he says. "They are the ones doing the violence. They aren't getting beat up. If you want to look at haters, [the gays] are the haters, not the Christians." He adds, "All Referendum 71 is trying to do is defend ourselves against their political attack. Society doesn't need to give anything to them just because they demand it. It is not a civil-rights issue; it is a health issue." So does he think gay people are gross? "I would say even more than gross. I think they are major incubators of a lot of the bacteria. It is common for homosexuals to have hundreds of different sexual experiences with people—they do fisting, they do water sports, and on and on. There are bacteria that are called 'gay-related syndrome' or something, but it is not healthy. And by using lots of antibiotics against them, the antibiotics are no longer usable because they don't work."