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Snohomish and Thurston County hold Ref. 71 celebrations
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Snohomish and Thurston County hold Ref. 71 celebrations

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

Members of Snohomish County Gay Men's Task Force (GMTF) and others gathered at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett on December 3 to thank all Washington State voters who helped approve Referendum 71.

On November 3, Washington voters approved Referendum 71, upholding a state law that provides important legal protections and the same rights and responsibilities for same-sex and senior registered domestic partnerships as married couples enjoy.

The expanded same-sex domestic partnership law became effective December 3. To commemorate the importance of the date and to celebrate and thank voters, GMTF and a group of about 20 people carried signs and personally thanked passing voters for their support in the passage of the referendum. The hand-lettered signs, provided by GMTF spokesman John Marsh, stated messages of appreciation and approval. GMTF officials say the group was well received by most passers-by.

The celebration, a followup to the final election result, was a particularly pleasing victory for GMTF and their supporters due to the fact that the majority of Snohomish County voters (the home of the referendum's opponents Senator Val Stevens and Larry Stickney) approved passage of Referendum 71, as did a majority of each and every county in the 2nd Congressional District, including Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan, and King Counties.

"Most of the people I spoke to before the vote in November, were pessimistic about the passing of Referendum 71 since nothing like it has passed before when put before the voters," Marsh told SGN. "But, of course, we were thrilled about its passage."

Marsh says he and his partner of 38 years registered in a domestic partnership the first day it was legal in Washington State. He said they feel good knowing they have all the same rights and responsibilities as a married straight couple.

"We are now, more equal in the eyes of the law, which is great," said Marsh. "Neither of us would ever have thought such a thing could happen in our lifetime."

Like many others who voted to uphold the Legislature's expansion of domestic partnership rights and responsibilities, GMTF member Charles Fay of Marysville, Washington, says he was disappointed when the issue made the ballot. "There is something basically wrong with allowing the civil rights of a minority to be decided by a majority vote," he said. But, the more Fay thought about it, the more he came to realize that "the opponents of expanded domestic partnerships have also done our cause a favor."

"As hurtful and divisive as the 'No on 71' campaign was, it opened the entire issue of same-sex families for a full discussion - whether anyone wanted to talk about it or not," Fay told SGN. "I like to believe that the majority of Washington voters are fair minded and know what is right and what is wrong. That is how I interpret the passage of Referendum 71."

Fay says he understands that a sizable group of Washington voters are not yet ready to embrace full and equal civil marriage for same-sex couples. But, he said, "Attitudes are changing. Time is on our side and those people will come to understand that our families are no different from their families in any important way."

Joining in the recognition of the passage of Referendum 71 was a group of people who gathered on December 5 at Procession of the Species Studios in Olympia. The event, "A Family-Friendly Celebration of Our Families! Our Rights!: The Approval of Referendum 71 and the Enactment of the New Domestic Partner Law," was sponsored by the Rainbow Center, Capital City Pride, and PFLAG-Olympia. The gathering featured kids activities, special guests, and celebration of the newly enacted expanded domestic partnership rights.

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