Marriage Fact Check has already debunked Preserve Marriage Washington’s assertions that innkeepers have been persecuted or that people will be fired from their jobs because of their beliefs on marriage.
The issue here is not same-sex marriage but rather existing state laws that prohibit discrimination. For example, the manager of the Vermont inn cited the owners’ “personal feelings” as the reason why it refused to host the lesbian couple’s wedding. But the Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act prohibits public accommodations – such as inns, restaurants and schools that serve the public – “from denying goods and services based on customers’ sexual orientation.” A summary of Washington State’s anti-discrimination law can be found here.
Finally, this was no “mom and pop” operation. The owners have a business with annual revenues between $2.5-5 million and, like any business, were subject to public accommodations laws. It’s also important to note that the couple sought $1 and punitive damages, but ultimately agreed to more — $20,000 for a charitable trust, with payments extended into 2015, and a $10,000 penalty paid to the state of Vermont.
While the National Organization for Marriage claims Goddard was fired from his position at Toronto’s Rogers SportsNet for his tweet regarding same-sex marriage, the company denied that assertion, noting the “well documented” reasons for his termination. And as Equality Matters pointed out: “Goddard himself admitted that it was ‘absolutely’ possible that his tweet had nothing to do with his termination.”
What’s also noteworthy is that although Washingtonians have been legally protected against sexual orientation-based discrimination since 2006 and celebrating commitment ceremonies since time immemorial, no “persecuted” Washingtonians appear in the ad. This ad is simply a red herring.
Update: The Seattle Times pulls no punches on PMW’s approach, saying, “How does the National Organization for Marriage and Preserve Marriage Washington hope to reject Referendum 74? By inventing legalistic contrivances that foresee lawsuits, business difficulties and make-believe invasions of personal rights. The template is virtually unchanged from the imagined horrors of desegregation in the Deep South.”