It’s odd that the majority of people in Washington state will be voting on whether to extend an important right to a minority group, namely gay people who want to get married. After all, a founding concept of our nation is majority rule tempered by constitutional protection of the rights of minorities; James Madison wrote of the importance of “(guarding) one part of the society against the injustice of the other part.”
Nonetheless, opponents of gay marriage were able to gather enough signatures to challenge the marriage equality bill and force a majority vote on the issue.
If Referendum 74 passes, it would make Washington the seventh state to enact marriage equality.
Public attitudes about homosexuality have progressed an amazing amount in the last couple of decades. Remember how Ellen DeGeneres made history and caused an uproar by coming out on her TV show? Nowadays, a gay TV character barely raises an eyebrow.
A recent poll shows that the marriage equality measure will likely pass by a healthy margin in the state.
That’s good news. Legalizing gay marriage is simply a matter of equality and fairness. Committed homosexual couples should have the same legal protections and benefits as heterosexual couples.
Gay couples shouldn’t have to use a separate lexicon to describe their love for one another. “Domestic partnerships” is not accurate and it’s not enough.
Many of the objections to legalizing gay marriage center around religious belief. They argue that allowing same-sex couples to marry would redefine the definition of marriage as a civil contract between two people.
The problem with that argument is that marriage is, in fact, a civil contract. Two people sign a contract, register it with the government and then receive certain rights and protections from the government as a result. There are many committed, non-religious heterosexual couples who wouldn’t get married if it wasn’t for those benefits.
Gay people should have the same option.
The proposal does not force churches or members of the clergy to perform gay marriages. Churches, clergy or religious organizations do not have to accept or even acknowledge these marriages, just as some churches have refused to accept “multicultural” marriages in the past.
There are churches that have embraced same-sex marriages and other churches that will not. Referendum 74 won’t change that, and voters should vote Yes to guarantee this civil right for all.