Online Extra: Wedding Bell Blues: Washington state voters to decide on new marriage law
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Marriage equality advocates in Washington state are working to defeat a measure headed for the November ballot that would overturn the state's new same-sex marriage law.
Earlier this year, the Washington Legislature passed and Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law legislation that legalized same-sex marriage. However, the state held off on allowing the unions as opponents collected petition signatures to undo the new law. Anti-gay activists succeeded by turning in more than 200,000 signatures Wednesday, June 6.
Zach Silk, campaign manager for the Washington United for Marriage coalition, said advocates "weren't surprised" that their opponents were able to gather the required signatures, and they've been "preparing all along" to defend marriage equality in the state.
"We've learned a lot of lessons from other places, and we're in a position to win," said Silk, who's 37 and describes himself as a straight ally.
One of the campaigns they learned lessons from was the unsuccessful effort in California to defeat the Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban. The state's voters passed the measure in November 2008.
Silk said that California "taught us a lot of lessons about how important it was to organize early and prepare for a really fierce, well-funded opposition. We haven't taken that for granted at all."
The Washington campaign has raised about $1 million, Silk said. He said the anti-gay group Preserve Marriage Washington has said that they plan to raise $7 million. No one from Preserve Marriage Washington responded to an interview request.
"We're hoping to match them dollar for dollar," Silk said.
He said, "We can become the first state in the country to defend marriage at the ballot box."
As for what people in California can do, Silk said, "We would really appreciate anyone's time, energy, and support. ... If there's one campaign to get engaged with, this would be the one."
Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) is urging constituents to help defeat the measure in November.
" [W]e know our opponents have not just built an army, but have the muscle of anti-gay organizations like the National Organization for Marriage to bankroll them," Murray said in an email blast last week.
The Washington vote is one of four in November. Voters in Minnesota, Maryland, and Maine will also cast ballots on same-sex marriage initiatives. In Maine, it was the pro-same-sex marriage side that put the measure on the ballot, after a similar initiative was defeated in 2009.
Karger files complaint against NOM
Murray isn't the only marriage equality supporter invoking NOM lately.
Out gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger filed a complaint with California's Fair Political Practices Commission against the anti-gay group in May.
In his complaint, Karger says that NOM "attempted to hide $345,500 in contributions it received in 2008." That's the period when the group was working to outlaw same-sex marriages in California.
According to Karger's complaint, National Organization for Marriage California – Yes on 8, sponsored by National Organization for Marriage was required to "report all receipts and disbursements."
Karger says in his documents that NOM included 11 contributions in its 2008 federal tax return that it didn't report in its 2008 filings with the California secretary of state. He said the unreported contributions include $10,000 from likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's Alabama Political Action Committee Free and Strong America. (In his filing, Karger cites the Washington, D.C.-based Metro Weekly .)
"Under the leadership of Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown, NOM is relentless in its desire to harm people and apparently thinks that it is above the law," Karger said in an email blast from his group Rights Equal Rights. "I will continue to monitor their activities in every state where it wages its war against the LGBT community."
Calls to NOM weren't returned. The Romney campaign didn't respond to an email sent through the candidate's website.
FPPC spokeswoman Tara Stock said in a brief phone interview Monday, June 11 that she couldn't comment on Karger's complaint and could only confirm that it's being investigated.
She said it's "hard to say" how long the probe might take, since the pace of such investigations depends on their complexity, the cooperation of the involved parties, and whether the state commission has to subpoena records, among other factors. Citing the FPPC's Enforcement Division policy, Stock said in an email that she couldn't comment on whether NOM has responded to Karger's complaint.
Wedding Bell Blues is an online column looking at various issues related to the marriage equality fight in California and elsewhere. Please send column ideas or tips to Seth Hemmelgarn at or call (415) 861-5019. Wedding Bell Blues appears every other Tuesday.