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New PAC formed for Referendum 71 campaign
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New PAC formed for Referendum 71 campaign
Washington Families Standing Together

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A new PAC, Washington Families Standing Together, has been formed to defend the expanded domestic partnership rights passed by the state legislature last month. Papers were filed with the Washington Secretary of State's office on May 15.

Former Deputy Mayor Anne Levinson has been named chair of the new organization, and Equal Rights Washington's Josh Friedes will serve as campaign manager.

According to Friedes, Levinson was asked to chair the new PAC "after a meeting of LGBT legislators." In 2006, she chaired Washington Won't Discriminate, the PAC formed to defend the Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill from an initiative challenge led by Tim Eyman. That effort failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. She was also one of the original conveners of Hands Off Washington in 1994, and served on its board.

"She's a seasoned veteran," Friedes told the SGN, "and we're deeply grateful to have her on board. Because she knows all the technical aspects of running a campaign, other people can focus on the hard work of actually building an organization."

Friedes is ERW's advocacy director. "ERW is growing and stable," he said, "and now we're in a position to lend assets and staff [to Washington Families Standing Together] for the duration of the campaign."

A Coordinating Committee for the new organization will be named soon, Friedes said. "It will reflect the geographical diversity of the state and the many communities we work with. We also want to acknowledge the creativity coming from young activists. There will be new blood on the coordinating committee."

Washington Families Standing Together will launch its new website as the SGN goes to press. It can be found at washingtonfamiliesstandingtogether.com and wafst.org.

The new PAC was created on the heels of Protect Marriage Washington, the PAC formed by a coalition of right-wing activists, pastors, and Republican legislators to push Referendum 71. Protect Marriage Washington registered with the state Secretary of State on May 13.

Protect Marriage has until July 25 to collect 120,577 signatures to qualify Referendum 71 for the November ballot. If the measure fails to qualify, the state's new domestic partnership law takes effect on July 26. It gives domestic partners the same rights as those afforded to married couples under state law.

If Referendum 71 does qualify for the ballot, Friedes promises an aggressive campaign. "This challenge gives us the opportunity to create the diverse statewide movement everyone has wanted to see for so long," he told the SGN.

According to Friedes, 18,000 voters have already signed on to the "Decline to Sign" pledge ERW and its allies have been circulating via e-mail. Join The Impact's Joe Mirabella created a Facebook page that has also signed up thousands of new volunteers. He is now managing the new organization's social network outreach.

"Our phones are ringing off the hook and we're getting e-mails from all across the state," Friedes said.

The Spokane County Democrats and the 3rd and 4th District Democrats have passed resolutions asking people to decline to sign Referendum 71 petitions. Labor organizations SEIU 775 Healthcare NW, UFCW 21, and Pride At Work AFL-CIO have become founding members of Washington Families Standing Together.

"We're also getting outstanding support from our traditional organizations," Friedes said, "from GSBA to the Pride Foundation. ACLU Washington, Lambda Legal and Legal Voice [formerly NW Women's Law Center] have been doing some legal work around the ballot title."

Friedes also promises that the campaign in this state will learn from the mistakes of the anti-Prop 8 campaign in California. "We have to recognize the lesson of Prop 8," he told SGN. "Our base didn't turn out. We'll have to work very hard to activate our base and do a good job on the get-out-the-vote work."

"We're fortunate that we have new technologies that allow us to ID and communicate with our base," Friedes added. "We can ID our voters through the Decline to Sign pledges, through Facebook & we can communicate with people in all areas of the state."

Asked about the traditional dilemma of statewide campaigns - to concentrate on winning a huge majority in the more progressive counties of Western Washington, or to do new outreach east of the mountains - Friedes said, "Different phases of the campaign require different types of work. Right now we have an opportunity to educate people all across the state."

"We're not willing to write off any part of the state," he continued. "If people in Eastern Washington knew about our families, we'd be seeing greater support. We have time to have the conversation with people east of the mountains."

According to Friedes, the biggest challenge facing the new organization is fundraising. People who wish to contribute to the campaign are asked to make checks payable to Washington Families Standing Together, and send them to WAFST c/o ERW, PO Box 12216, Seattle WA 98102.
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