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Alliance maps strategy for defeat of marriage bill

From left, Joseph Backholm, Rep. Matt Shea, Rep. Jason Overstreet talk with Chris Moore before Backholm, Shea and Overstreet speak at a marriage forum at Gateway Fellowship, organized by Moore. - Megan Stephenson / Herald
From left, Joseph Backholm, Rep. Matt Shea, Rep. Jason Overstreet talk with Chris Moore before Backholm, Shea and Overstreet speak at a marriage forum at Gateway Fellowship, organized by Moore.
— image credit: Megan Stephenson / Herald

POULSBO — When Poulsbo resident Chris Moore first heard last fall that some state representatives wanted to legalize same-sex marriage, he said he felt “somebody had to do something about this.”

Moore spoke to his friends Richard Tizzano and Heidi Lestelle, who together founded the Kitsap Marriage Alliance.

They held their first event Monday evening at Gateway Fellowship in Poulsbo, including a question-and-answer forum as a strategy session to defeat the bill, which has yet to be submitted.

More than 250 people attended the forum.

“It really did tell me just how strongly people feel about this issue locally,” Moore said of the turnout.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane, and Joseph Backholm, executive director of Family Policy Institute of Washington, a conservative lobby group, both spoke about why redefining marriage is an issue.

Washington state does not require residency to apply for a marriage license. Shea said this could mean those who live in surrounding states that do not allow same-sex marriage or civil unions could come to Washington to get married.

“That’s why they chose Washington, that’s why it’s an important issue,” Shea said. “Compromise has cost us.”

He also cited examples of churches and business owners who faced persecution after they, because of their religious beliefs, denied services to homosexuals.

Being an election year, Backholm said this will be a political decision and representatives will listen to the number of constituents contacting them regarding which side they are on a particular issue.

According to the Associated Press, which reached out to all 49 state senators last week, more lawmakers are firmly supporting gay marriage than opposing it — including Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-23rd — by a margin of 22-18. The measure needs 25 votes to pass the Senate.

The 23rd District’s representatives, Sherry Appleton and Drew Hansen, also support legalizing same-sex marriage.

Speaking in front of a conservative crowd, Shea and Backholm urged the audience to call and let their representatives know they do not agree with redefining marriage to include same-sex marriage.

“Religious freedom and sexual freedom cannot co-exist,” Backholm said. “One will win, one will lose.”

For groups such as the Washington United for Marriage coalition, it is a civil rights issue.

“I’m excited for the marriage equality bill, it will give equal protection to my family,” said Rev. Mark Travis, a gay pastor who lives on Bainbridge Island. He said his denomination, the United Church of Christ, has been supportive of marriage equality, regardless of gender, for 15 years.

He said history has shown governments stepping in to give rights to minority groups — such as slaves, women, and African-Americans in the 1960s — “when the majority doesn’t want to give it.”

There have not been any recent events or forums in Kitsap, according to Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage coalition.

“In Kitsap County, most of the legislators have been very supportive,” Silk said. “It has a lot to do with kind of organized energy and constituent energy they feel on the ground.” He said his group is focusing its efforts on districts with less support for same-sex marriage.

Since 2009, Washington state has allowed residents to apply for a domestic partnership if they are unable to marry. RCW 26.60 states that “the public has an interest in providing a legal framework for such mutually supportive relationships, whether the partners are of the same or different sexes, and irrespective of their sexual orientation.”

The law is known as an “anything-but-marriage” union, where consenting adults that share a common residence, are not married to anyone else, and are not nearer kin than second cousin may apply as domestic partners.

According to the Secretary of State website, there are 9,266 domestic partnership registrations as of Jan. 12.

If legalized, Washington would join Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and the Coquille and Suquamish tribes.

According to two public polls in 2011, a majority of Washingtonians supports legalizing same-sex marriage, but on close margin. Public Policy polling in May found that 46 percent thought same-sex marriage should be legal, while 44 percent thought it should be illegal. If the law went to a referendum vote, 55 percent would keep it, 38 percent would reject it, according to an October University of Washington poll.

 

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