After weighing ballot language challenges filed by both opponents and proponents of Washington’s civil marriage equality law, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee has finalized the wording of Referendum 74. His decision cannot be appealed.

The finalized ballot language, which is more neutral than originally proposed by the Attorney General and marriage-equality opponents, reads:

Ballot Title:
The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom [and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill].

This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.

Should this bill be

___ Approved

___ Rejected

Ballot Measure Summary:
This bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender, and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnerships are converted to marriages, except for seniors. It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies. The bill does not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement.

Gone are prejudicial terms like “redefine marriage” that marriage-equality opponents were pushing for.

Anne Levinson, who coordinated the challenge on behalf of supporters of Washington’s marriage equality law, said in a statement the The Olympian:

It is important to the integrity of ballot measure elections that ballot language is neutral, not favoring either side, is as clear and easy to understand as possible, and explains to the voters what the law being challenged is about. Our argument to the Court was that the ballot title and summary proposed by the Attorney General favored those trying to repeal the civil marriage equality law. It was also unnecessarily confusing and didn’t adequately explain to the voters what the legislation is about. The judge agreed and revised the ballot title so that it is more balanced, easier to understand and better explains to voters the impact of their vote. We appreciate the League of Women Voters and PFLAG stepping forward to help explain to the court why the ballot title as drafted did not serve the voters of Washington State well.

With the ballot language finalized, opponents of marriage equality may now print their Referendum 74 petitions and start the signature gathering process. They need collect only about 121,000 signatures from Washington voters by June 6th to force the measure onto the November ballot. Considering that National Organization for Marriage has pledged to focus its shadily-financed resources to “mount a successful referendum campaign” in Washington, it is widely believed that they will achieve the low-bar goal of getting the measure on the ballot.

Looking ahead to the November election, Washington United for Marriage, the campaign dedicated to preserving the marriage equality law, is asking voters to take the pledge to approve Referendum 74.

Working together, we passed a landmark marriage equality bill in Washington State. Our opponents are determined to roll back our progress. They are preparing to put marriage equality up for a vote in November. Help us defend it by pledging to approve Referendum 74.

Related:

  • “Redefine Marriage” is a False Catchphrase
  • Out-of-State Players Swarm Into Washington State to Work on Overturning Washington’s Civil Marriage Equality Law
  • WA: Ballot Language Released for Referendum 74 on the Marriage Equality Law