by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
On November 3 the nation will know the fate of the more than 6,000 registered same-sex domestic partnerships in Washington State. Registered voters will have had the chance to vote to approve or reject Referendum 71. Beginning in mid-October, Washingtonians were asked whether or not they want to keep the domestic partnership law, which grants the same rights and responsibilities for registered same-sex domestic partners and some seniors as married couples. If voters decide to approve Referendum 71, then more than 12,000 people in Washington State registered in domestic partnerships will keep the essential protections the current law provides.
When it comes to Referendum 71, time has always been a factor. Although the General Election deadline quickly approaches, there is still time to fill out your ballot, if you have not already done so, and mail it to election officials. If you have already cast your vote, there is still time for you to join Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST), the LGBT advocacy group conducting the Approve Referendum 71 Campaign, in reminding everyone you know to vote. There is still time for all of us to remind co-workers, friends and family to approve Referendum 71.
DOWN, BUT NOT OUT
This week, a new WAFST Referendum 71 was released. Although the result is encouraging - 53% say they will vote to approve, while 36% say they will reject the referendum - WAFST said the message is crystal clear: everybody must vote.
"If supportive voters cast their ballots, we will win," Approve 71 Campaign Manager Josh Friedes said. "Basic legal protections for thousands of committed couples hinge on this simple act. Vote now!"
WAFST and the Approve Referendum 71 Campaign won an important victory in federal court on October 27 when Federal District Court Judge Ronald Leighton turned down an effort by the campaign to reject Referendum 71 to gut Washington's campaign finance laws, which prohibit anyone from donating more than $5,000 to a campaign 21 days before the General Election deadline.
The suit, filed by Family PAC, a political action committee formed to challenge the law and accept money from out-of-state interests. Family PAC has the same board of directors and address as the Family Policy Institute of Washington, and its only contributor is the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), who filed an identical lawsuit in Maine the same day Family PAC filed their suit in Washington.
"The State has a real and vital interest in showing the money trail. & I do not believe it is in the public interest for the court to intervene and change the rules of the game at the last minute," Judge Leighton said. "I do not believe there is a real emergency. The constraints imposed upon the plaintiff are self-inflicted."
So, why the cause for alarm?
Focus on the Family Action (FOTFA), a Colorado-based conservative organization aligned with anti-Gay leader James Dobson, was able to register as an independent expenditure campaign, allowing them to spend money on any issue they want. That means the organization is allowed to spend as much as they want whenever they want, and are only required to report what they've spent within 24 hours of distribution. According to news reports on FOTFA's Public Disclosure Commission records, the group spent $91,970 in Washington this month. On October 20, FOTFA spent $80,000 to buy radio ads encouraging voters to reject Referendum 71 - a potentially dangerous message considering the General Election is a few days away and undecided voters may be persuaded to vote to reject the state's domestic partnership law.
Taking a page from the Proposition 8 folks, FOTFA has distributed a mailer claiming that if Referendum 71 is passed, schools will be "required to teach kids as young as kindergartners that domestic partnerships are the equivalent to marriage." The mailer asks the questions, "Do you want your kids or grandkids to be taught about Gay partnerships?" FOTFA is asking their supporters to "Protect the innocence of Washington's kids. Vote to reject Referendum 71."
In speaking with public school officials, SGN was told that whether or not the domestic partnership law remains on the books, current curriculum would remain in place. In truth, there is no statement within the law that says anything about school curriculum. A vote to approve Referendum 71 is a vote to protect Washington families, and has nothing to do with what kids are taught in public schools.
"This race is still too close for comfort," Friedes said. "Money is pouring in from out of state to fund our opponents, and they are investing heavily in radio ads. We know the best way to counteract the outrageous lies our opponents are telling is with direct conversations with voters."
Friedes said that WAFST and the Approve Referendum 71 Campaign have said from the beginning that this election will be decided by voter turnout. "There are only five days left to vote approve on Referendum 71," he said. "Let's put Ref. 71 over the top!"
APPROVE REFERENDUM 71
CAMPAIGN GOING STRONG
WAFST, along with a large pool of eager volunteers, is giving the Approve Referendum 71 campaign the visibility it needs with more events, phone banking, neighborhood canvassing, and sign waving than any one person can attend. In addition to direct communication with voters, the campaign has taken the message to the radio and TV with ads appealing to voters who want to protect the domestic partnership law in Washington State.
The Approve Referendum 71 Campaign Events Coordinator Josh Castle and his group of grassroots advocates held two "Sausage Fest" events at The Cuff Complex and Café Metro, to create awareness, encourage people to vote, and raise money for the central campaign.
"These events are so much fun," Castle told SGN at the October 28, Café Metro party. "It's getting down to the wire, and people are beginning to realize they can make a difference. Our volunteer base keeps growing and people are consistently approaching us and asking us what can they do to help."
The answer, he says, is always to "vote to approve Referendum 71!"
Some Capitol Hill businesses have also gotten into the approve Referendum 71 groove as well. Broadway Grill held a buffet-style fundraiser for the campaign on October 28, and Purr cocktail lounge held a popular cocktail mixer for the campaign on October 29. This weekend, Friday-Saturday, tabling to approve Referendum 71 will take place at Panache, where volunteers will talk to as many voters as possible.
WAFST is asking for volunteers on Halloween. They are hoping to make "Trick or Vote" the largest "get out and vote canvass (in costume) the city has ever seen," said WAFST officials. On October 31, from 2-9 p.m., beginning at the Georgetown Brewery in Seattle, costumed ghosts and ghouls will get the chance to spread the Approve Referendum 71 message across the city while getting into the holiday spirit. Training will be provided for this event. The training will be conducted at 2:30 p.m., with canvassing from 3-7 p.m. Then, WAFST will throw a party for the volunteers inside the Old Georgetown Brewery until 9 p.m.
Friedes told SGN that the outpouring of support has gotten better with each passing week, but he said, "This campaign isn't over yet; we've got a few more days and we plan to do all we can to ensure that Referendum 71 is approved."
"Our Facebook page has 32,000 fans and is growing by a hundred people an hour for the last couple of days," Friedes told SGN. "And our volunteer phone banks have done over 200,000 dials and will be phone banking right through election day."
For more information about upcoming Approve Referendum 71 events, donate money to the campaign, or to sign up as a volunteer, visit WAFST online at www.approvereferendum71.org.
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