On Monday, March 23rd, the Washington State House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on SSB 5688, the Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill of 2009.  

Not surprisingly, delegates from The Washington Hate Coalition repeated their same tired lies and distortions.  As I listened to their testimony, I decided that we need to produce a sheet of concise responses to these lies, because we all know that they will keep repeating them until people accept them as the unquestioned truth.  Below is my transcript of the testimony of the two main Hate Coalition members to testify.  I have numbered their statements to facilitate our responses.  My responses are embedded within the transcript and are in green typeface.  I look forward to your comments.Please note that for clarity, I have delineated sentences where it seemed appropriate.  Mr. Backholm, in particular, did not clearly indicate where one sentence ended and another began.

[1:37:16]  Joseph Backholm

Thank you for your time, Joseph Backholm of the Family Policy Institute of Washington aah with some concerns about this and I I’d like to start by saying that I think we understand what are the benefits of the legislation, they are well documented and well understood by all involved.  What I think are less well understood are the costs and I think in making public policy that must be one of the considerations.
1.Um, of course same-sex couples are not the only deviation from marriage as we have always defined it in this state, and I have yet to hear articulated any reason why any other relationship involving loving consenting adults, ah relationships that are not currently recognized by the State of Washington should be excluded if we uh begin to extend marriage-like benefits in every respect. Um as I’m sure most of you are aware, ah relationships involving close relatives, ah people who are already married and minors are also not recognized by the state of Washington.
  • This is the old “slippery slope” argument.  To the extent there is a slippery slope, it was created by heterosexuals when they decided to reserve special legal rights for only their families in a country whose Constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws and due process.

  • 2. And I think the State, in the in the spirit of consistency and ah predictability in the law that we create, I think the legislature owes the state a uh a description of how far this goes, and if it stops here on what basis.  And is that rational or just as arbitrary as the lines that the opponents of this legislation are being accused of drawing right now.

  • The bill SSB 5568 is quite specific, as is existing Washington State law.

  • 3.  Um, the second, the second concern we have concerns religious freedom.  Um, we’ve seen around the country where this has, uh despite objections uh infringed uh dramatically on the rights of conscience.  Uh there have been adoption agencies in Massachusetts that have been shut down because they have not been willing to place children with same-sex couples.

  • This has nothing to do with domestic partnerships.  Catholic Charities decided to cease all adoption services when it had to choose between continued acceptance of state funds and adhering to the state’s non-discrimination law, or discriminating against same-sex couples.  There was no state mandate for them to close.  They could have remained open and refused service to s-s couples if they were willing to wean themselves from the state teat.  Previously, and apparently before they were ordered to politicize their work, Catholic Charities had placed children with same-sex couples.

  • 4.  Um there have been there have been churches that have lost tax exemption statuses in New Jersey.

  • This has nothing to do with domestic partnerships.  The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association is not a church, as Mr. Backholm misstates, but is a religious ministry.  It owns “seaside land that includes a boardwalk pavilion. It obtained an exemption from state property tax for the land on the grounds that it was open for public use and access. Events such as weddings of any religion could be held in the pavilion by reservation. But when a lesbian couple sought to book the pavilion for a commitment ceremony, the nonprofit balked, saying this went against its religious beliefs.  The court ruled against the nonprofit, not because gay rights trump religious rights but because public land has to be open to everyone or it’s not public.

  • 5.  And in Georgia a councilor was sued ah because for conscience reasons was uncomfortable with, with ah providing ah counseling service to a lesbian woman and her couple, gave a referral to another councilor who was commended for providing excellent service but was still sued.

  • This has nothing to do with domestic partnerships.  Marcia Walden is a CDC contractor who refused counseling services to a couple because they are lesbians.  Oddly, the Aliance Defence Fund, which is handling the case for Walden, has no information about the case on their website.

  • 6.  In the State of New Mexico a couple who owned a uh photography business uh declined the opportunity to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony because they objected on moral grounds to what was taking place and they were taken before the Civil Rights Commission in the State of New Mexico and fined $6,600 for that decision.

  • This has nothing to do with domestic partnerships.  The photographer, Elaine Huguenin, broke the state’s non-discrimination law and therefore was assessed a fine.

  • 7.  Similarly in California doctors who provided in-vitro fertilization services did not want to participate in the creation of a family that could not provide both a mother and a father. Uh for that reason they have been sued and are currently in the course of litigation.

  • This has nothing to do with domestic partnerships.  Although Mr. Backholm doesn’t name the case he references, the California Supreme Court ruled last year that a scenario such as he describes would be in contempt of state non-discrimination law.
  • Mr. Backholm’s beef seems to be with not with domestic partnership per se, but with not being allowed to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against fellow Americans.

  • I think we need to decide, this this legislation does much more than simply extend benefits.  If that were the goal of this, that could be done by inserting the phrase “and/or domestic partner” throughout the code.  What this legislation does is require that for all intents and purposes, domestic partners must be treated the same as married married couples.

    8.  And it really does redefine it in that sense, and we know that the implications because of the requirements placeded placed on anyone who wants to contract with the state, they will be, as they are being required around the country, to agree with the moral values basis of this legislation or they will not be able to fully participate, uh, in in government in society as they are now.
  • No one must agree with anyone else’s moral values.  However, it is true that because state law forbids discrimination based on, among other things, sexual orientation, no private entity receiving state funds may discriminate on that basis.
  • The presence in the legislature of the 18 senators who voted against SB 5688 would indicate that those in moral disagreement with this bill still can and do participate fully in government.

  • I think those are something things that need to be considered.  This could be more carefully drawn to avoid those consequences, but as it is written we have concerns.  Thank you.

    [1:40:53]  Larry Stickney

    Larry Stickney with the Washington Values Alliance.  Members of the Committee, thank you.
    1.  Um, my friends, I want to remind everyone that this isn’t about Seattle values here, either, today.  It’s, Ralph Monroe used to say there’s two states.  There’s what you see from Seattle, from the Space Needle, then there’s the rest of the state.  I can, I think I can make the claim that our organization and others here today that are speaking, uh, would represent a strong majority of what you maybe don’t see from the Space Needle.  And so I would ask you, you know, respect the rest of Washington State as well when you make your decisions here.
  • Mr. Stickney draws the false conclusion that no fair-minded Washingtonians live outside of Seattle.  Further, he forgets that Representatives from across the state sit on the House Judiciary Committee, and that the majority of them have co-sponsored the bill.  The old “Seattle liberal elite” meme falls apart.

  • 2.  Um, my friends marriage has provided the foundation for healthy and harmonious family living, ah, for civilized societies for 2,000 years.  Um, provides for the greater good of the social order.  Marriage between a man and a woman should therefore remain an unchangeable standard.

  • The definition of marriage has changed radically from Old Testament times to now, and even during the lifespan of the United States.  Plural marriages, concubinage, forced marriage of the wife to a brother-in-law if the husband dies without children, prohibition of marriage for American slaves, divorce, recognition of mixed-race marriages, recognition that woman are not the property of their husbands (or wives)…Anyone claiming an unchanging definition of marriage for 2,000 years is either ignorant of their Bible and history, or lying.

  • 3.  Now last Thursday, uh, we had 2,400 people out in the rain and the cold on the capitol steps here, and many of you folks were conspicuously missing as was much of the Seattle media.

  • Virtually all state media demurred reporting the event after the fact.  A notable exception was Seattle Gay News.  Further, the Seattle Times previewed the event and provided extensive column space before-the-fact to members of The Washington Hate Coalition.  It would seem that Mr. Stickney’s beef should really be with non-Seattle media.

  • 4.  And I would remind you that uh that large group of people came out simply by receiving emails that are zipping around from some organizations.

  • The not-so-veiled threat that he can mobilize lots of voters is undermined by the fact that a heavy percentage of those at the March 19th rally were children.

  • 5.  And I can tell you that, that, you’re you’re courting a social upheavel with bills like this.

  • When facts fail you, use scare tactics?  Social upheavel has yet to commence, despite domestic partnerships/civil unions being available in CA, CT, DC, HI, ME, MD, NH, NJ, OR, VT, WA, all of Andorra, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greenland, Iceland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and certain states in Argentina, Australia, Brazil & Mexico.  Not to mention that bona fide marriage is available to same-sex couples in MA, CT, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa and Spain.

  • 6. And in light of what we’re receiving here, er of what we’re seeing with the budget uh in the State of Washington, it seems you should be focusing on getting us out of that crisis instead of, ya know, promoting this type of thing.

  • Since Mr. Stickney has only testified against this one bill and not the thousands of other bills distracting the legislature from the budget, his admonishment rings hollow.  Additionally, he testified twice before this committee on the same bill, repeating many of the same things both times.  This could be seen as his wasting the legislators’ valuable time.
  • Without full Domestic Partnerships, the economic problems of the state hit same-sex couples unfairly and disproportionately. Passage if the bill thus does address some of the economic distress felt by Washingtonians.

  • 7.  Now friends, uh, if Boeing builds a new airplane, and rolls it out of the line, uh, but leaves the letter “b” on it, it’s still a Boeing aircraft.  You may dress this thing up as you may, but we recognize it for what it is.  In other words, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck it’s probably a duck.

  • Senator Murray best refuted the lie that SB 5688 creates same-sex marriage, saying “The language in this bill is similar to all the other states who have domestic partnership laws.  They have domestic partnership, they don’t have marriage…But this bill isn’t about marriage.  I wish it was.  I wish it was for the police officers who testified and protect us, I wish it was for the young men and women I have met who have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan.  But it isn’t.  I wish it was, for after 18 years for Michael and me that we could finally get married.  But we still won’t be able to.  This piece of paper will be useless when we cross into Idaho or Utah or anywhere else.  I wish it was, but it isn’t.  That DOMA law, that unfortunate in my opinion reprehensible law still stands.  So this body chose to deny us the right to marry.  And as I have said before, you have denied us that right, but do not deny us the right to care for our families and to build our lives.

  •  Members of the Committee, Legislature is courting disaster.  You know, here we are, again, suffering through the largest budget crisis in history.  Do we really want to see the same kind of strife and conflict California just endured in the aftermath of Proposition 8, in the State of Washington?  Thank you.

    Cross-posted at Washblog.