OLYMPIA, Wash. – A Washington state coalition of traditional groups turned in more than 240,000 signatures June 6 in an effort to overturn the state’s gay marriage law, a number that is double the number required and one that all but guarantees that the state’s voters will decide the issue this fall.
The coalition, Protect Marriage Washington, said the number of signatures was a state record.
The Washington secretary of state’s office still must make sure the coalition turned in the 120,577 valid signatures that are required. That, though, appears to be a mere formality.
“We should not redefine marriage simply because of the radical agenda of a small but powerful special interest group, and doing so will mean consequences to society,” Joseph Backholm, chairman of Preserve Marriage Washington, said. “Marriage as the union of one man and one woman is profoundly in the common good. It brings men and women together and connects them to any children born of their union. Marriage helps give kids a mother and a father, and that’s worth fighting to preserve.”
Joseph Backholm, chairman of Preserve Marriage Washington, carries some of the 240,000 signatures into the secretary of state’s office in Olympia, Wash., Wednesday. It was double what was needed to qualify a referendum that would reverse a gay marriage law.
Signed by Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire in February, the gay marriage law has yet to take effect, and it will be put on hold at least until voters have their say in November. Washington state already has a domestic partnerships law that grants same-sex couples all the state legal benefits of marriage, minus the name.
The initiative is known as Referendum 74. Supporters and opponents no doubt will spend the coming months explaining what a “yes” and “no” vote will do. A “yes” vote on the referendum would uphold the gay marriage law, while a “no” vote would overturn it.
Backholm told Baptist Press that the law will be rejected if churches get involved.
“I am confident that if the church stops acting out of fear, we will win this walking away,” Backholm said. “The narrative from the other side has been that you prove you’re a good and decent person by supporting same-sex marriage. There are a lot of people in churches who know what’s right, and their theology is correct, but they feel a tremendous amount of pressure not to do anything about it. Even if privately they’re going to vote the right way, they’re certainly not sharing that with their friends. That’s just fear.
Pastors must speak up for “what is right,” Backholm added.
“Because when pastors say nothing about this subject, the message that is communicated to their congregation is that this is something that God doesn’t really care about. And that’s a problem,” Backholm said. “They don’t have to talk about it every Sunday, but they need to make sure their congregation understands that this is on the list of things that God does care about. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us as believers to use the influence He has given us in this debate in a way that honors Him.”
Washington is one of four states scheduled to vote on the definition of marriage this fall. Maryland and Maine also will be voting on whether to legalize gay marriage, while Minnesota citizens will decide whether to amend the state’s constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
Gay marriage is legal in six states. But in every state where it has appeared on the ballot – 32 in all – it has lost.
The Protect Marriage Washington coalition includes the Family Policy Institute of Washington, the Washington Catholic Conference and the National Organization for Marriage.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. For information about Referendum 74, visit http://preservemarriagewashington.com.)