The Freedom to Marry passes in Maryland and Maine, and leads in Washington

I’ve put in a lot of hours over the last four months making phone calls for Referendum 74. I know people who put in far more hours than I did. Tonight, it appears as if our work paid off. Referendum 74 is getting approved at just under 52% of the vote. There are about 600,000 votes left to count in the state, and one quarter of them are in King County, which has Referendum 74 passing by 65%. I ran the numbers and put them in a Google Sheet:

Signs point to approve with the assumption that late breaking ballots do no worse than votes counted earlier. I think that’s a reasonable assumption, given the great last minute Get Out The Vote effort from Washington United For Marriage. What I don’t know how to project is how many more ballots will arrive for each county, as I have no idea what kind of turnout is reasonable to presume.

Meanwhile Maryland and Maine passed marriage equality. The tide has turned.

More phone banking

Thursday I participated in my third week of phone banking for Referendum 74. It was a very odd session.

My own dialer session called 141 people, but I actually had only 3 conversations with people and none of them were undecided. They were all strongly for marriage equality. With those folks, all we generally do is remind them that a vote to approve Referendum 74 is a vote for marriage equality. But not only were there no undecided people, there were no anti-marriage equality people. I had a lot of hang-ups, refused to answer, not homes, and wrong numbers. I think I had 3 people who were angry we had called them. Don’t you know my number is on the Do not call list? asked one lady. Nope, I don’t. See, lady, political calls don’t have to scrub people based on the do not call register. There’s this little thing called the First Amendment. Of course, I don’t tell them that or argue with them. I simply just ask Would you like me to put you on our do not call list? and then I do. Anyway, bummer about not talking with any undecided voters.

I also spent some time training a fellow next to me. He really had a hard time with it. In the role play before we started calling, I played an undecided callee. He really wanted to convince my character that marriage equality is a matter of civil rights and started to veer into trying to argue my character into voting for marriage equality. Which isn’t what we are trying to do. The phone bank script emphasizes the personal and emotional benefits of marriage for gays and lesbians. Rather than talk about fairness in hospital visitation rights, we’re supposed to talk about how visitation means a gay/lesbian family member gets to visit their loved one. It’s sometimes a subtle but important distinction. People sometimes think domestic partnerships are fair, for instance. We’ll tell them that no one dreams of a domestic partnership document signing, they dream of a wedding. The point, I think, is to make it personal and real. Even the prejudiced people, for the most part, don’t hate gays. They fear them, and we’re trying to make gay marriage just a bit less scary.

Anyway, dude to the left of me kept slipping into arguing. He also got off script early on too. Rather than tell people we’d like to talk with them about the freedom to marry, as the script notes, he started telling people we’d just like to ask a quick question about Referendum 74. Which doesn’t get the idea of the freedom to marry or even marriage equality burbling in callees’ heads at the beginning. Talking about a referendum tends to close off discussions before they start. And second, if they are leaning against, it’s gonna make them feel lied to when we do want to talk more than a quick question. Liked the kid, but he was making things hard for himself.

I won’t be doing the phone bank this week though. There’s a Sounders match on Thursday night. However, I’ll be participating in a training session on Wednesday so they can have me run future phone bank sessions. We’ll see how those go. I’m surprisingly good on the phone. I found this out when calling people on behalf of Ron Sims in 2004. I don’t know how good I’ll be at helping people do this though. As I’ve found out this summer, I’m not exactly a natural teacher.

Washington United for Marriage

The last time I really cared about a ballot measure was in 2008 when the Death with Dignity Act was an initiative. I have cared about other initiatives, but not to the point where I’ve been willing to go sign up to help out in place of other stuff I was dealing with. But this year there is one I care about: Referendum 74. Gay Marriage. As you can guess, I’m all for this. While I think having domestic partnerships was an important middle step in the political process toward approving same sex marriage, it was only an interim step. Now it’s time.

From the emails I’ve received, one of the strategies they are employing is to get out the vote as much as possible in Seattle, where the referendum is likely to have overwhelming support.

Thursday I get to spend an hour in training with Washington United for Marriage so I can volunteer. Saturday I’ll be participating with Washington United in Seattle’s Pride parade. I’ll be walking in the parade and handing out pamphlets. And before the official start and end I’ll be carrying a clipboard trying to get people to sign up to be part of Washington United.

Vaughn Walker’s Proposition 8 decision

By now, most of my friends know that a judge in struck down California’s Proposition 8. Being the obsessive person that I am, I downloaded a copy of Vaughn Walker’s decision on Proposition 8. Here’s a couple of thoughts I have on it. Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, so my speculation is probably suspect.

First, he laid out a lot of facts in the record to support his conclusions. And his legal reasoning based on those facts is detailed and methodical. The analyses I’ve seen online say that going to make it harder to overturn.

However, the Proposition 8 proponents were fairly negligent in putting on their case. They called two experts who were not qualified. I wonder how much precedential weight other courts will give the case when people challenge similar laws in other states because of this. Will they allow bigots in other states to put on a better case or will they give weight to the essentially unopposed facts and conclusions from this decision? If this were a death penalty case, the proponents would have a great case for ineffective assistance of counsel. I personally believe the scientific evidence offered in the case by marriage equality folks is pretty unassailable, but their opponents barely tried.

One of the facts that was a pretty important part of this case was the fact that California does not discriminate based on sexual orientation in adoption and child fostering. With or without Proposition 8, California viewed gay parents as equal to straight parents. That was one of a couple of facts underlying his decision that are specific to California.

That’s important because it totally undercut one of the reasons the Prop 8 proponents gave as a compelling government interest in banning gay marriage. They claimed the state had a compelling government interest to ensure that that children are raised by biological parents of opposite sexes. Since Prop 8 did nothing to change how gay parents would be treated, that could not be a compelling government interest behind Prop 8.

So, that makes me wonder if states that have been more intransigent in their deleterious treatment of homosexuals might have an easier time getting their gay marriage bans upheld. In other words, the might get away with claiming a compelling government interest in ensuring children have biological parents raising them.

Then again, an appeals court might give a fairly broad-based reason for upholding the decision that makes that reasoning moot.

The facts not specific to California could carry over to other cases unless other folks are allowed to put on a case that challenges the established facts in this case. I’m not really sure if other courts would just assume these facts are uncontroverted, or what. Things like studies that show no difference in child outcomes for gay parents versus straight parents when other family status items like class or cohabitation status are controlled for. Or that studies of gays and lesbians as a group show they do not have political power (used to support the designation of sexual orientation as a suspect class and justify strict scrutiny). At what point in the life of this issue as a legal controversy do those become dicta?

Anyhow, it’s a really good decision. Much better than the Washington State Supreme Court decision on gay marriage a couple of years ago. And I say that not because I like Walker’s conclusion better (though I do), but because it’s much more thoroughly reasoned.

Washington State Representative District 43 Position 1


I rarely vote for or endorse candidates running unopposed. There doesn’t seem to be much point. However, I make an exception for Jamie Pedersen. His cause celebre is marriage equality. He’s been the leader in the legislature getting a domestic partner registry law passed, and then expanding it the following year. The stated plan is to add more and more of the rights and privileges associated with marriage to the domestic partner law, until it’s indistinguishable from marriage. Huzzah!

I vote twice for Jamie Pedersen.