Leaders of the campaign to approve Referendum 71 say the latest batch of election results confirm that the majority of Washington voters have approved Referendum 71, thereby upholding the state's domestic partnership law for same-sex and senior couples.
Statewide, R-71 is passing by a margin of more than four points. In King county, where the results of 68,507 ballots were just released, voters are approving R-71 by a 34-point margin. King County Elections officials estimate they have another 138,000 ballots on hand to count. But Protect Marriage Washington, the fanatical Christian group that put the domestic-partnership law on the ballot, has yet to concede.
State Senator Ed Murray (D-43), prime sponsor of the domestic-partnership law, says its a done deal. "I'm pleased and relieved," Murray says. "Pleased as a native son of this state that Washington continues to respect its citizens and relieved because I don't believe we were as ready as a community as we could have been."
It was the shortest referendum campaign in state history—less than two and a half months from qualifying for the ballot to election day. The approve Referendum 71 campaign was run by Washington Families Standing Together. The group organized a massive fundraising network, dozens of cooperating groups, and thousands of volunteers across the state.
"The margin is likely to continue to increase over the next few days" says campaign manager Josh Friedes. "To have this large a margin in an off-year election, when the electorate is older and more conservative than in a general-election year, is proof that the people of Washington strongly support gay and lesbian families."
"I think we immediately have to continue conversations about the problems that our families will continue to face until we achieve marriage equality," Friedes says.
But Murray think the next challenge for LGBT-rights advocates will be fending off challenges to the existing domestic partnership law.
"I expect that the far right--because they lost in this state--nationally they will target this state," Murray says. "I think we face a series of initiatives from the far right and we will have to have these campaigns year after year to overturn the domestic partnership bill or have voters vote on a version of the Defense of Marriage Act." But Murray says the state's organizing networks now are stronger as a result of the R-71 campaign. "The vote affirms that the strategy we tried in Washington state was the right one," he says, referring to passing three incremental domestic partnership bills, each one granting more marriage rights to same-sex couples. "We engage citizens in conversions about what it means, survivor benefits and funeral arrangements, instead of just focusing on one word."