Today Washington United for Marriage launched MarriageFactCheck.com “to provide rapid response to the misrepresentations and falsehoods raised by opponents of Referendum 74 and the bipartisan marriage law which allows all loving couples in Washington to marry.”

WUM, a coalition of more than 500 organizations, congregations, unions, and businesses, is asking voters to Approve Referendum 74 this November to keep Washington state’s new freedom to marry law on the books.

The first fact check: Washington Catholic bishops’ statement exhorting parishioners to reject Referendum 74 and the marriage law. WUM writes:


Challenging the latest release from Washington’s four Catholic bishops that calls on parishioners to reject Referendum 74 and the freedom to marry, Washington United for Marriage (WUM) today launched marriagefactcheck.com countering the bishops’ assertions and reminding voters of the facts surrounding the state’s bipartisan law.

In a press release issued this week, the Bishops reaffirmed their opposition to the law while at the same time, reinforced their goal to have parishes collect contributions this Sunday for Preserve Marriage Washington (PMW), the group opposing the law and R74. The statement the Bishops asked to be read in churches this Sunday is titled “Marriage and the Good of Society”.

“We understand and respect that the bishops oppose the freedom to marry, but we cannot sit by and allow anyone, even the bishops, to misrepresent the law or the facts,” said Zach Silk, WUM campaign manager. “Knowing what’s certain to come this fall from our opponents, we’re launching marriagefactcheck.com so voters know the truth and aren’t scared or swayed by continuous misrepresentations of the law.”

Marriagefactcheck.com takes Issue with the following assertions made by the bishops:

Assertion

“The new law would separate marriage from procreation and the right of children to be raised by their mothers and fathers.”

Fact

Including loving gay and lesbian couples in civil marriage does not in any way impact or change anyone else’s marriage or family. Many heterosexual couples marry and never have children, but want the bond and commitment that is universally understood when they marry. As the Pew Research Center found, having children ranked 8th on a list of things that make a successful marriage. Additionally, marriage ensures that children of same-sex couples are fully protected under the law.

Assertion

“The new law would have a chilling effect on religious liberty by making it discriminatory for public and private institutions to promote the unique value of children being raised by their biological mothers and fathers.”

Fact

The new law does not affect religious marriages, religious institutions or clergy in any way. No religion would be forced to marry gay and lesbian couples, or recognize those marriages. In fact, the law specifically protects religious liberty and faith leaders are free to either support the freedom to marry—as a growing number now do—or proselytize against it. Religious exemptions of this kind are now becoming the norm in marriage equality laws—as seen in New York, Connecticut, Vermont and Maryland.

Assertion

“No institution or individual could propose that married mothers and fathers provide a singular benefit to children without being accused of discrimination.”

Fact

Again, the new marriage law expressly protects the right of free speech and religious speech. It simply allows all loving couples to enter into a civil marriage. In fact, the text of R74 explicitly states: “A regularly licensed or ordained minister or priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official shall be immune from any civil claim or cause of action based on a refusal to solemnize or recognize a marriage under this section…”

Assertion

“The bishops also made reference to religious institutions, including the Catholic Church, that have been forced to suspend ministries such as adoption and foster care because of conscientious objections to same-sex marriage.”

Fact

The bishops like to refer to suspension of services, most notably in Massachusetts, Washington, DC and Illinois, where each Catholic charity made a decision to abandon adoption services rather than comply with existing non-discrimination laws that apply to any entity receiving state funds. Furthermore, in all cases, the conflict arose over long-standing non-discrimination laws that have nothing to do with same-sex marriage. And in the most recent case in Illinois, after getting rebuffed at two court levels, the Church finally abandoned its lawsuit altogether. Finally, in each case, state and city agencies quickly moved to transfer those service to adoption and foster care agencies that would consider qualified gay and lesbian applicants.

Assertion

“The redefinition of marriage does not bestow any new legal rights on couples of the same-sex in Washington State. In 2009 a law was passed that granted to registered domestic partners every legal benefit enjoyed by couples in traditional marriages.”

Fact

States that have passed civil unions have found them to be fundamentally unequal. After New Jersey enacted civil unions, in 2008, an independent Civil Union Review Commission issued a report arguing that the civil union act “invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children.” A commission in Vermont drew similar conclusions in 2008, nearly a decade after it passed its civil union law. Also in 2008, the Supreme Court of Connecticut struck down a statute that prohibited same-sex marriage, finding that civil unions and marriage “are by no means ‘equal.’”

Assertion

“Faithful, monogamous marriages between one man and one woman will cease to be the legally-established social standard for uniting children with their parents, even though social science has established that children do best when raised in homes with married mothers and fathers.”

Fact

A wealth of legitimate social research has found children of same-sex couples do not experience negative outcomes because of their parents’ gender. In 2010, sociologists Judith Stacey (NYU) and Tim Biblarz (USC) conducted a review of nearly every study on gay parenting. They found that, “Current claims that children need both a mother and father are spurious…” And the American Academy of Pediatrics “recognizes that a considerable body of professional literature provides evidence that children with parents who are homosexual can have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment, and development as can children whose parents are heterosexual.” (More here, here and here.)