If you ask pastor Gary Randall, 69, to explain what harm gay marriage would cause society, he can't give you a straight answer. "You caught me with three pencils, a yellow pad, and a laptop in front of me right now," he says—a week after being asked the same question. "I will be writing something on that specific issue," he promises.
Randall's inability to immediately justify his antipathy toward gay marriage is rather odd, considering he's president of Faith and Freedom, a collection of two nonprofits and a political action committee that has focused on opposing same-sex marriage in Washington since 1993. Any day now, Randall will use the group to file a referendum that will attempt to repeal, via statewide vote, the domestic-partnership bill that passed in the state legislature on April 15 and that's set to extend every state-granted right of marriage to registered same-sex partners as soon as Governor Gregoire signs it.
Randall equates the new domestic-partnership gains to same-sex marriage, which, when pressed, he says could negatively impact child rearing (though he couldn't explain how) and embolden polygamists (though he couldn't explain how). From this fuzzy ideological foundation, Faith and Freedom plans to launch a drive to gather 120,577 voter signatures by late July in order to qualify its referendum for the November ballot. This will be accomplished in part by employing signature gatherers, and thus could require Randall to raise over $100,000. The group's tax-deductible 501(c)(3) wing, the Faith and Freedom Foundation, has already sent fundraising e-mails to support a referendum. There, in the campaign's fundraising potential, is perhaps Randall's main incentive to oppose domestic partnerships.
"I believe this is simply a fundraising machine," says state senator Ed Murray, prime sponsor of the domestic-partnership bill.
This isn't the first time Faith and Freedom has raised money by opposing Murray's legislation. After Murray spearheaded the passage of antidiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, and transgender people in 2006, the group supported a referendum to repeal the bill, filed by Tim Eyman, that ultimately failed to collect enough signatures. Nevertheless, IRS records from that year show that the Faith and Freedom Foundation raised $147,267 and spent $61,133 on paying for fundraising—a whopping 42 percent of its income, which is an unusually high amount. The next year, the group spent 58 percent of its budget on fundraising. Tax records from 2005 to 2007 show that, on average, the group spent under 30 percent of its budget on program goals. Where does the money go?
"I don't get paid a salary," says Randall.
But IRS filings show the Faith and Freedom Foundation paid Randall $53,877 in compensation in 2006 for an average of only 15 hours of work a week. Asked to explain this, Randall said he doesn't draw a salary from the Faith and Freedom Network but does draw one from the Faith and Freedom Foundation. However, this distinction is purely technical—Randall was the president of both organizations in 2006.
Simply filing the paperwork for a referendum would block the measure from taking effect until the petition deadline in late July, delaying the extension of domestic-partner rights such as being able to use sick leave from work to care for a partner or share health insurance plans. If the measure qualifies for the general election, the bill (and those rights) would remain in limbo until the November vote.
"If the Faith and Freedom Network really cared about the families, they would try to strengthen them by working to help provide basic services to all families, not by trying to take away basic rights from gay and lesbian families," says Josh Friedes, a spokesman for Equal Rights Washington, which supported the domestic-partnership bill.
Polling released by the University of Washington last October shows 66 percent of state voters support either full marriage equality or all the rights of marriage for same-sex couples. This leads one to the conclusion that more than stopping the bill, which is a long shot, Randall is primarily interested in funding his group—even if it means a gay man can't leave work to care for his sick partner while this no-chance referendum runs its course.
However, Randall insists the referendum will pass. He paid for his own poll, conducted by Elway Research, which asked only one question; he wouldn't divulge what that question was. No doubt Faith and Freedom will use and misrepresent this poll's results to argue the referendum will pass. Whatever happens, rights for an entire class of people in this state will be delayed for months—all, it seems, so that Randall can have another banner year of fundraising.