Opponents of equality are currently collecting signatures in an attempt to challenge Washington state’s new marriage equality law at the ballot through Referendum 74. But Washington conservatives have pushed back on same-sex couples’ recognition before, through 2009’s failed Referendum 71, a challenge to the state’s “everything but marriage” domestic partnerships. Despite attempts to keep the signatories of that campaign hidden, they are now publicly available at whosigned.org, and one activist is attempting to reach out to all of them.
So far, Paul Thomasson has emailed almost 2,000 of the R71 signers, identifying himself as a gay veteran and encouraging them not to sign R74. So far, he has received 60 email responses, all of which he has published on his webpage. Many, if not most, of those who reply take time to explain why they oppose same-sex marriage and reaffirm their Christian beliefs, like this prototypical example:
The reason I did, and will again, is simple. The family is the foundation of our country. Relationships have been created and defined by God. When you start to redefine and do things outside of that, it is destructive. I am not a hater of homosexuals. I have good friends that struggle with it. I will not endorse the practice though. It is a counterfeit love that comes from pain/woundings. It is no different than the sins I struggle with. I don’t seperate you from me. We both fall short. And we both have a Savior who paid the price for our sins. I love you and hope GOD’s will for your life. Thanks for the email
A few respondents have actually had a change of heart or at least agreed to reconsider their position, like this couple:
Thank you for sharing your life story. Don’t worry, we will not support R 74. Good luck to you and your life partner.
Mike & [wife’s unusual name redacted]
But many of the respondents are concerned that their information is publicly available. They believe that even though they signed a legal document to impact the legislative process, their identities should remain completely anonymous, like the author of this reply:
Dear Paul: I appreciate your activism. I routinely sign petitions because I believe that people should have a more direct say in the laws that govern them. However, I also strongly believe that voting and petition signing should be by secret ballot. I therefore consider the listing of petitioner’s names, irregardless of the court’s ruling on the matter, an anti-democratic invasion of my privacy and a subversion of people’s freedom. It is the sort of thing I would expect from a dictatorial form of government. I think you should consider this aspect of using the list that was made public over the petitioner’s objections before you use it. Thank You for taking time to hear my views on this. Sincerely, Cal [last name redacted]
Paul Thomasson’s email is anything but threatening, but replies like Cal’s are proving to be quite common in his project. It’s an odd perspective that these individuals expect to have the power to impact the law without having to be held accountable for playing that role. At the foundation of democracy is ensuring that lawmakers are accountable to voters, but many of these signatories seem to believe they have rights that circumvent that principle. Of course, these are also individuals seeking to roll back rights the legislature has advanced — an undemocratic notion— so perhaps it sensibly follows they also feel they should bear no responsibility for the consequences.
Nevertheless, Thomasson’s effort could make a significant difference in how many Washington voters think about Referendum 74 this year, which is crucial given how they are currently split. Plus, their replies provide a compelling glimpse into the opposition’s beliefs.