Personal stories define same sex marriage measure

October 4, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

In the moments before the state Senate voted on a landmark same-sex marriage bill Feb. 1, Dana Alixander, of Sammamish, joined other supporters in the gallery overlooking the chamber.

“I was there, waiting for history to happen — and terrified that it wouldn’t,” she said in a recent interview.

Legislators, after impassioned debate, passed the bill and sent the measure to the state House of Representatives for consideration. In February, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the legislation as supporters looked on from the packed State Reception Room at the Capitol.

Dana Alixander (lower) and her wife Sage Alixander, stand in the staircase of their Sammamish home with their California-issued marriage license and photographs chronicling their life together and with family and friends. Photo by Greg Farrar

The law would allow same sex couples to marry. It does not require religious institutions to perform or recognize those marriages.

Opponents to the same-sex marriage law gathered enough voter signatures to put the measure before the electorate. The measure, Referendum 74, goes before voters on the November ballot.

 

National fight

R-74 is the centerpiece in a high-dollar, high-profile contest in the national battle between same-sex proponents and foes.

Alixander headed to Olympia to support marriage rights — a long-running fight for the Sammamish resident and her partner of 22 years, Sage. (In 2008, Sage and Dana got married in California before Proposition 8 outlawed same-sex marriages there.)

“In Western Washington, even without marriage rights, we have more rights than a lot of people in the country do when it comes to protection for families,” Sage Alixander said. “We want to preserve that and we also want to fight for what we feel is the ultimate, fair conclusion, which is marriage equality.”

In 2009, Washington state voters passed Referendum 71 and enacted a domestic partnership law — or “everything but marriage” law.

This allowed same-sex couples to enter into long term legal partnerships, which got the bulk of the privileges given to married couples.

Voters in the 5th Legislative District, which included Sammamish at the time, endorsed R-71 as the measure garnered 53 percent support statewide.

Maine, Maryland and Minnesota also have same-sex marriage measures on the November ballot.

“If we vote to redefine marriage, we would become the first jurisdiction in the history of civilization to do so,” said Joseph Backholm, a leader of R-74 opponent Preserve Marriage Washington. “No group has ever gotten together and decided that marriage is a relationship involving people of the same gender.”

Marriage between same-sex couples is legal in 11 countries. The states of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage.

Ben Crowther, a Skyline High School graduate and Klahanie resident studying at Western Washington University, said the most common question from voters is about ballot language.

“Most folks that I talk to support the freedom to marry, and they just want to know how to vote,” he said.

Cheryl Pflug, a former state senator for Sammamish, likened the quest for same-sex marriage to the civil rights movement.

“Do you ever think about if you had been on the bus with Rosa Parks?” Pflug, a key Republican supporter of same-sex marriage in the Senate, said in a recent interview. “I don’t know how brave I would have been in that situation, to be perfectly honest. There’s so much you have to overcome about your personal perspectives. I knew by the time that we took the vote that this would be something in 10, 20 years we’d all look back on.”

 

On the ballot

Referendum 74 asks voters to decide if same sex couples should be permitted to marry under Washington law. It does not obligate religious institutions to recognize or perform these marriages. A yes vote supports the idea the same-sex couples should be able to marry. A no vote rejects the idea that same-sex couples should be able to marry.

 

Where’s the money

Washington United for Marriage is the lead group organized in support of R-74.

As of Sept. 27, it had raised about $7.8 million. Its top donors include:

Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos (founder of Amazon.com) $2.5 million

Freedom to Marry Washington PAC $625,000

Human Rights Campaign $250,000

Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) $100,000

Bill Gates Microsoft founder $100,000

Individual donation amounts may be higher than those listed here.

 

Preserve Marriage Washington is the lead group opposing same-sex marriage. As

of Sept. 27 it had raised about $903,000. Its top donors include:

National Organization for Marriage $250,000

Thomas Matthews $100,000

Boyd Sharp $50,000

Breier-Scheetz Properties, LLC $20,000

Larry McDonald $12,000

Individual donation amounts may be higher than those listed here.

 

Source: Washington Public Disclosure Commission

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One Response to “Personal stories define same sex marriage measure”

  1. Election coverage 2012 : Sammamish Review – News, Sports, Classifieds in Sammamish, WA on October 16th, 2012 2:16 pm

    […] Gay Marriage R-74 […]

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