Religious faith forms the major fault line separating supporters and opponents of Referendum 74, the ballot measure that would ratify this year’s legislative approval of same-sex marriage. The rationale behind individual views, for and against, can be as varied as the individuals themselves. But a large segment of the opposition stems from a biblical view that marriage exclusively involves a man and a women who together bear and raise children.
Some proponents argue that the Bible never explicitly spells out such an arrangement, and theologians and lay people can argue these points in their favored forums. It’s not our intent to interpret the Bible, but to weigh in on a civil matter as to whether voters should approve the referendum, on which marking the “Approved” box signifies support for state-recognized same-sex marriage.
The key to our decision lies in the first sentence of Referendum 74’s ballot summary. It reads: “This bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender, and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses.” The operative word here is “allows,” and we believe a right allowed to a majority of consenting couples should be allowed to all.
The Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board recommends a yes vote on Referendum 74.
We do so acknowledging the sincere beliefs of opponents who voice concern about the challenges of raising children in today’s world. But opponents offer nothing empirical about children having more problems in same-sex households than in dual-gender or single-parent homes. There are more children who need loving homes than there are homes for them, and opponents’ arguments ignore those same-sex couples who now are providing a nurturing environment for children. Having their arrangement recognized as a marriage only strengthens these family ties.
Opponents also complain that the referendum would “redefine” marriage, an institution that has survived dizzying redefinition in recent decades. Think of how views have changed on divorce, single parenthood, cohabitation and blended families in recent decades. Amid these trends, traditional marriage endures, and it would continue to do so just fine with the addition of same-sex unions.
Much of the opposing argument focuses on marriage being for procreation. Two points: (1) Biotechnology has radically changed who can have children and under what circumstance; (2) Defining marriage in procreation terms excludes those loving couples who cannot have children, choose not to have children or who marry after their child-bearing years. The procreation argument therefore renders those other unions as less authentic, less loving or less valid. That may not be the opponents’ intent, but again, these unions without children point to marriage having already been “redefined.”
On another point, we again refer to the ballot summary, this time the third sentence: “It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies.” The measure maintains the strong ethic, embodied in Washington’s constitution, that keeps the state out of religious affairs. No church would be forced to perform a ceremony that its doctrine would not honor. No church would be forced to violate its beliefs. Referendum 74 violates no religious rights, and it instills for everyone a civil right that most of us take for granted.
It’s true, same-sex couples can register as domestic partners, which grants them the same legal rights as married couples. But proponents argue persuasively that a partnership is not a marriage, both on a practical and emotional level. For proponents, “partner” simply doesn’t carry the same weight as “spouse.”
The time has come to give all partnerships their proper standing; the time has come to instill for all consenting citizens the right to marry the one they love; the time has come to mark “Approved” and provide a yes vote on Referendum 74.