One of the more interesting things about yesterday's House vote to approve marriage equality, was that it happened yesterday.
There had been a lot of speculation that House Dems might wait to the very last moment to approve the bill and send it on to Governor Gregoire for signing, so as to give opponents as little time as possible to gather signatures on a referendum. But apparently they've chosen not to play that particular game.
Why? Well, one reason might be the assumption that a referendum is a foregone conclusion. With national anti-gay organizations pledging big money to the cause, the signature threshold won't amount to much of a hurdle, no matter the allotted time. Maybe.
But I also wonder if the the Democratic leadership might not welcome a referendum this fall?
One of the truisms about initiatives and referenda is that ballot measures drive turnout, and high turnout almost always favors Democrats. Sure, such a referendum would drive turnout among both supporters and opponents, but if a recent Washington Poll can be trusted, this still should work to the Democrats' advantage.
According to the poll, 55 percent of respondents said they would vote "Yes" on a referendum to affirm marriage equality legislation, while only 38 percent said they would vote "No." But more importantly from a turnout perspective, 47 percent said they "strongly favor" such a referendum, while only 31 percent said they "strongly oppose" it.
The passion appears to be more on the Yes side.
There's a reason why backers chose 2012 as the year for both marijuana legalization and gay marriage to hit the ballot. A presidential election cycle turns out more voters, and disproportionately liberal voters to boot. But these ballot measures will also turn out more liberal voters on their own, and that means more votes for Democrats like Barack Obama, Maria Cantwell, and Jay Inslee.
So while I'd prefer to see marriage equality just coast into law unchallenged, if conservatives want to help turn out Dems by putting it on the ballot, I say bring it on. It just might provide the electoral edge, say, Inslee needs to push him into the governor's mansion.