Sept. 28 Daily News editorial

Before getting to our Editorial Board's position on R-74, the November referendum on whether to approve or repeal Washington's 2012 law enabling same-sex marriages, we thought it might be a good time to reveal some other positions we found ourselves taking along the way.

• The state and its voters have every right to regulate marriage. They do it now. State laws determine the legal age of consent for both partners, whether or not parental approval is required, what medical tests they need to complete and what, if any, sworn statements they need to make.

In terms of marriage "belonging" to churches and other religious institutions, we (and our laws) tend to look at religious marriage as a separate decision and commitment. We don't want to see an environment where churches are compelled to perform or recognize marriages they have determined should not be permitted. Ultimately, however, a couple married in the eyes of the state and not in the eyes of a church is still a legally married couple.

Washington voters have the right to make this choice. Whatever their decision, we will respect it after it's made.

• Our endorsement probably isn't going to change too many minds on the issue.

In addition to being a matter of law, this choice also will be a matter of personal values for many voters. Even before it was confirmed that same-sex marriage would reach the ballot, we think a large majority of voters probably knew how they were going to vote and why.

• There are sincere, intelligent and responsible people on both sides of this issue.

They aren't always, alas, the loudest or the most likely to appear in the newspapers or on television.

If this seems like a preamble to a vote in favor of approval, it's not. A divided Editorial Board, after many weeks of discussion, voted to endorse repeal.

We note that many notable proponents of same-sex marriage, including Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and President Barack Obama, were opposed only a few years ago. One of the things we like about R-74 is that its only function is to set aside the law adopted in January. It creates no new law and doesn't call for amending the state's constitution, in which case we may have looked at it differently.

What may have been ultimately decisive for us is that the concept of legal approval of marriage "variants" is a dangerous one. If two women can be married, why not two women and a man? Many of the same arguments being used in favor of same-sex marriage can be and have been used in defense of polygamy — the participants are often enthusiastic and committed, they're only asking for the same rights and recognition of their values as others are, societies should be permitted to "evolve," etc.

Supporters of same-sex marriage say we can take the first step along this path without taking the others. A majority of our board members were uncertain the first step needs to be or should be taken.

We rest a little easier in our decision knowing that the legal rights of same-sex couples in Washington enjoy the protection of a 2007 law dealing with registered domestic partnerships that's so comprehensive that it's still commonly known as the "Everything But Marriage" law. We don't recommend that it be rolled back or weakened in any way.

The people have a right to draw lines defining marriage and we support that right. In terms of our vote, it remains our belief that the best place for these lines is where they are now.

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