By Mona Smith, GSBA Board President
When the Referendum 71 «Decline to Sign» campaign started, I called GSBA member Anne Levinson, Chair of Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST) and Campaign Director Josh Friedes to see how GSBA could assist. I also extended my personal offer to help. Referendum 71 seeks to roll back the third installment of the 2009 domestic partnership legislation.
While not marriage, the legislation provides to LGBT families and senior registered domestic partners all of the rights and responsibilities of married spouses in Washington state. The 2009 legislation included pension and death benefits to partners of first responders and other civil servants as well as the elimination of home studies in second parent adoptions This is a major step in our fight for full civil rights including marriage.
Referendum 71 asks voters whether they want to retain the 2009 Domestic Partnership Bill passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Chris Gregoire. A “yes” vote retains the law; a vote “no” repeals the law.
I received a call from Anne in late July taking me up on my offer to help. She asked if I would assume a leadership role in recruiting observers for the signature verification process in Olympia on behalf of WAFST. In order for Referendum 71 to get on the November ballot, the petitioners must have 120,577 valid signatures from registered voters from the almost 138,000 signatures submitted. As we go to press, the Elections Division in the Secretary of State’s office is in the process of verifying the submitted signatures. This is only the fourth time in 19 years that the Secretary of State is conducting a full review of each and every signature. The target date for concluding signature verification is the end of August.
Each side is allowed to have observers present to monitor the verification procedure. From my viewpoint, being an observer has opened my eyes to what really goes on in the referendum and initiative process. Being part of this process has made me better understand and appreciate our democratic system.
Beyond the task at hand, what is really significant is the collaboration of GSBA members and partners, working together for equality for all. I am proud to be a GSBA member. At the time I am writing this column, we do not know whether Referendum 71 will be on the ballot. I urge
each of you to vote in the upcoming election and if it is on the ballot to get involved. Contact Washington Families Standing Together (206-324-2570 or www.approvereferendum71.org).
All through August, I have been in Olympia almost every day observing the signature verification. I have not been alone. GSBA members have answered the call and generously donated their time in the fight for equality. I want to give big shout outs to GSBA board members Jonathan “Mac” Macaranas, Jonathan Bowman, Kristine Messick and Leah Schulz who have gone over and above the call of duty in Olympia. More shout outs and thanks go to GSBA
members Jeff Maxwell, Alene “Andie” Anderson, Matt Bockus, Don Moreland, Steven McGregor, Jennifer FitzSullivan, Shad Reinstein, and Elizabeth Berns who have given and continue to give so much of their time. Thanks also to our GSBA partners Equal Rights Washington (ERW), QLaw and Pflag - their members have stood shoulder to shoulder with us. I am grateful and indebted to Anne Levinson, Josh Friedes and Legal Voice for giving more time
to this effort than any could have imagined.