By JOHN FORTMEYER
OLYMPIA, Wash. — When the ballots are officially tallied here, will Washington have followed the lead of 32 other states and voted to preserve traditional one-man one-woman marriage for now, or might it be the first to endorse same-sex marriage in a public vote?
Unless the vote is exceedingly close, the state and nation will likely know the evening of Nov. 6.
On this fall’s ballot, Referendum 74 (R-74) is a Washington state referendum to approve or reject the February 2012 bill passed earlier this year by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. If the referendum is approved by voters, same-sex marriage would be allowed effective Dec. 6. If rejected by voters, the same-sex marriage law would be nullified.
Voters should receive their ballots in the mail around Oct. 17.
The referendum was placed on the ballot largely through the efforts of concerned Christian groups that seek to preserve traditional marriage in the Evergreen State.
In Clark County, Wash., a prayer group in Camas held an evening gathering Sept. 28 to kick off 40 days of special prayer and fasting “for the defeat of R-74 and the election of holy, God-fearing officials.”
Clark County resident Greg Noelck, a regional director for Preserve Marriage Washington, a coalition of community and faith groups, said a local rally for traditional marriage will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, at Fisher’s Landing Grange, 814 N.E. 162nd Ave. in Vancouver.
Although a poll conducted by Seattle-based Elway Research and released on Sept. 17 showed R-74 supporters leading opponents statewide by a 51 to 37 percent margin, Preserve Marriage Washington claimed the survey shows the referendum is in trouble because voters’ opinions have remained unchanged since July, even though R-74 proponents have aired television commercials since the Olympics late that month.
“Our opponents have had the airwaves to themselves for weeks, but they have failed to close the deal,” said Frank Schubert, campaign manager for Preserve Marriage Washington. “Soon voters will start to hear the other side of the debate, and we expect support for Referendum 74 to collapse.”
Survey director H. Stuart Elway of Elway Research said that historically, ballot measures with less than 60 percent support in the late summer almost always fail in fall voting.
Agreeing with Schubert’s analysis, Noelck said most advertising that the statewide campaign does will naturally be concentrated in the heavier populated area in and around Seattle and Tacoma. “But I think we are going to do well,” said Noelck. “We have a great message and a great team.”
He added that if a pastor or church in southwest Washington wants to get involved in the campaign at this point, “they should know there is nothing legally stopping them. They can support this issue, talk about this issue, as much as they want. Preserve Marriage Washington has plenty of information to assist them. They can also go to our (local) truthandmarriage.org website.”
How Preserve Marriage Washington has gone about securing financial support from churches became a point of concern recently when a spokeswoman for the state Public Disclosure Commission told The Associated Press that the group was not in accordance with state law.
Preserve Marriage Washington had been advising churches to take special collections and forward them to the campaign. But according to Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the commission, no organization such as a church can be an intermediary for a contribution. While the church can make a call for a special collection and hand out envelopes to its parishioners, either a member of Preserve Marriage has to be on hand to collect them, or parishioners must send them in individualy.
In response, Preserve Marriage Washington changed its website instructions to churches that want to raise money for the effort, but Anderson said the new wording was still not fully in compliance with the law.
As of early September, Preserve Marriage Washi-ngton had raised about $471,000 in its campaign, compared with more than $6 million raised by same-sex marriage supporters Washington United for Marriage.