Be progressive — grant couples rights

I urge you to be progressive, not regressive, by voting to approve Referendum 71. Be sure to mark the “yes” box.

If approved in November, Ref. 71 would uphold a law passed by the state Legislature last session that gives same-sex couples and unmarried senior couples “rights, responsibilities and obligations granted by or imposed by state law on married couples and their families.” This law provides important protections for domestic partners, especially in times of crisis.

Without this law, for example, there would be no benefits for partners of firefighters or police officers killed in the line of duty, no rights to take time off work to care for a seriously ill partner, no pension benefits for partners of librarians, teachers and other public employees, no granting of other rights having to do with insurance, child support and custody and adoption.

The opposition to Ref. 71, voiced by one or two dozen conservatives or faith-based groups, is based on fears — fear that approval will eventually lead to the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed by Congress and signed into law in 1996.

An opposition speaker on NBC’s Frontline, for instance, recently said the Washington law legitimizes aberrant sexual behavior, undermines traditional marriage, goes way beyond benefits and puts the state in the position of taking a stand on a moral issue. The proponent for the referendum totally disagreed with these inferences and countered, “It’s simple: equal protection under the law for all families.”

So far, 12,000 people have registered as domestic partners in Washington state. Should we let fear deny them the basic rights that others have to own property, operate businesses and bring up children in loving relationships? It’s a question of not discriminating against our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.

Among those who publicly support the referendum are Gov. Chris Gregoire, U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, our two U.S. senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and many of the region’s largest companies (including Boeing, Microsoft, Nike and Puget Sound Energy), a long list of religious leaders and more than 180 professional and civic associations.

I work with the League of Women Voters, known for its non-partisan and unbiased positions. The state league has taken a “yes” position on this referendum because it stands against discrimination.

I can’t put it better than The Seattle Times, which recently recommended passage in the name of fundamental fairness for all Washington families. As a Times writer put it, “No one loses when fairness and equality under the law are extended to all; nothing is taken away from one person, one couple or one family and given to another. This is about equal treatment for all Washington residents going about their private lives.”

Many Islanders likely heard about or even participated in the “decline to sign” campaign — an attempt to thwart conservatives’ effort to gather enough signatures to put this issue on the ballot. Now that the referendum is before us, it’s important that those of us who care about equal treatment under the law switch gears — and vote yes to retain the law.

There’s nothing frightening about this law. Nor is it complex. It’s a simple endorsement of equal treatment for all Washington residents, especially in times of need.

— Ellen Kritzman is a longtime Islander active in civic affairs.

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