A lot of folks deserve credit for the
defeat passage of Referendum 71, but when it comes to the underlying strategy that got us this far, it’s hard to argue that anybody has played a bigger role than state Sen. Ed Murray.
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.”
And it wasn’t just this vote in Washington that proved the strategy right, but the failed vote in Maine that would have approved full blown same-sex marriage there. Maine voters just weren’t quite ready to approve gay marriage, and most likely voters aren’t quite ready to do the same here. But by acting incrementally and forcing a public conversation about marriage equality, our voters have been willing to go further toward marriage equality than voters in any other state.
In fact, ironically, by forcing the issue onto the ballot, the opponents of R-71 have likely advanced the cause of marriage equality in Washington state by accelerating the conversation, and by reassuring legislators that they have the support of the people. In a few years, after more voters have grown comfortable with the new status quo, Washington will be ready to take that last step.
It took a couple decades for Washington to finally pass legislation extending our state’s anti-discrimination laws to gays and lesbians, but only a few more years to achieve “everything but marriage.” And Murray deserves a hearty congratulations for a legislative strategy well executed.