Taking sides: Referendum 74

Approve R-74: A chance to embrace the values of marriage

By Rachel Taber-Hamilton

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I am an Episcopal priest, currently the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church here in Everett, and I have also been a health-care chaplain for 17 years. I am writing to encourage people to support the values embraced in our state’s marriage law by voting “Approve” on Referendum 74 for marriage equality this November.

Marriage calls people into faithful companionship and care of one another in a mutual lifetime commitment. In this way, it embodies the selfless model of Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of the people. Unfortunately, in my work I have seen repeatedly how social and religious prejudice harms individuals, families and communities.

While caring for a gentleman dying of terminal cancer, I met his extraordinary family; I will refer to him here as “Tony.” His story is representative of dozens I have encountered. Tony and I had wonderful conversations about his life that said volumes about how much he was loved — and how much he loved, in return. A few days before he died, Tony summarized his relationship and life with his family of five.

“We both work, pay taxes, carry a mortgage and have two car payments. We are active and contributing members in our church. We juggle our schedules so that we can get the kids to soccer practice, scout meetings and ballet rehearsals. We help our parents with their errands, home repairs and getting to doctor appointments on time. We would do anything for our kids and family; family is our number one priority,” he told me.

On one hand, Tony had the typical life of a middle-aged parent; his concerns were universal to every family I know. But on the other, I couldn’t help notice that his family dedication modeled values of faithful commitment that are becoming more and more rare in an era of rising divorce — and declining marriage — rates. Tony represented an increasing minority of people in life-long, monogamous relationships.

Therefore, I found it genuinely tragic that he was not permitted to marry the person he had loved faithfully for 32 years, simply because the person with whom he had forged a strong and stable family was the same gender as he was.

All around us, we can see that loving relationships and stable families take many forms. Anyone who has ever adopted a child or married into a blended family knows this is true. Becoming a family takes work, patience, dedication, and communication. By the same token, those who are unable to have children or who marry later in life know and trust that the promises and treasures of marriage are more than procreation.

In the rite of marriage, the Great Commandment to “Love One Another” is witnessed not only in the love between two people, but also in the support their family and community promise to provide throughout the life of the couple.

In Tony’s case, his partner, “Rob,” spent every day at his side throughout his dying process, as did their three children. As Tony’s health declined, Rob shared with me, “It would have meant so much to our kids if we could have married; it would have been so validating to them, to us, to our family. To be able for our kids to live without the stigma of prejudice they experienced because their parents, who loved and raised them and wanted the world for them, are the same gender. We’re just like everyone else; living regular lives with the same worries, fears and hopes. We don’t want a parade or to make people upset; we just want the freedom and acceptance to be who we are — faithful people with the same dedication to our country, church, family and one another as anyone else.”

Fidelity, commitment and faith are not values exclusive to a particular race, creed or orientation of people; they are transcendent values that belong to all. As Jesus encouraged in his own ministry, our minds and hearts must be transformed within us so that indoctrinated prejudices can be changed within our community.

By voting “Approve” on Referendum 74, and supporting the freedom to marry this fall, we can help affirm these values for all the families that make up our community. For those called to the commitment of marriage, love should never be made to feel less real, less valuable or less valid than it is. Life is too short and family too precious for anyone to be asked to settle for anything less.

The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett.

Reject R-74: Redefining marriage would affect all of us

By Dave Woodward

The Preserve Marriage Washington campaign is a diverse coalition of faith and community groups, thousands of volunteers, and a quarter of a million citizens who have organized to preserve marriage in Washington. We urge Washington voters to reject Referendum 74.

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a bill to redefine marriage by allowing same-sex marriage. Thanks to the signatures of nearly 250,000 Washingtonians, Referendum 74 is on the ballot. We are urging voters not to redefine marriage, but instead to mark reject when they receive their ballots for three reasons. First, same-sex couples in Washington already have full legal equality. Second, marriage is more than recognizing the relationships of adults. It’s also about what children need to function best. The overwhelming body of evidence shows that children thrive best when raised by their married mom and dad. And last, we must mark reject because of the profound consequences that our society will face if marriage is redefined.

In 2009, voters approved the “Everything but Marriage” law. That means a same-sex couple already has every legal right and obligation in Washington that an opposite sex couple has. No exceptions. While Referendum 74 will not grant same-sex couples any new benefits, it will redefine marriage for everyone.

Children do best when raised by their married mom and dad. By making marriage genderless, the Legislature belittles the unique roles of moms and dads. Marriage is the only institution we have that not only unites a man and a woman with one another, but with any children born to them. Children have a right to know and be cared for by their mom and dad. Stripping marriage of its male and female qualities will shift marriage from being a public institution that binds children to their parents to an arrangement focused on the personal desires of two adults.

Finally, there will be profound consequences for anyone who disagrees with this new definition of marriage. A common myth is that somehow same-sex marriage will coexist in the law alongside traditional marriage. But the truth is, when marriage is redefined it becomes the sole definition of marriage for everyone — gay or straight. No more husbands and wives. Only Spouse 1 and Spouse 2. Everyone in Washington must submit to the new definition of marriage or face potential consequences.

Legal experts on both sides of the marriage debate agree that redefining marriage will have profound impacts on society. Scholars have written that the issue implicates a host of issues, ranging from religious liberty, to individual expression of faith, to education and the professions.

If marriage is redefined in Washington, those who believe marriage is between one man and one woman would soon find themselves being treated as the legal equivalent of bigots for acting on their beliefs. Refusal to accommodate and recognize same-sex “marriages” would be the equivalent of racial discrimination. Not only will the law penalize traditional marriage supporters, but also the power of government will work to promote this belief through the culture. Religious groups who have refused to make their facilities available for same-sex couples have lost their tax exemption. Religious groups like Catholic Charities in Boston and Washington, D.C., have had to choose between fulfilling their social mission based on their religious beliefs or accepting this new definition of marriage. As a result, they have been forced to close their charitable adoption agencies. Wedding professionals have been fined for refusing to participate in a same-sex ceremony. Christian innkeepers in Vermont were sued over their refusal to make their facilities available for same-sex weddings despite offers to refer the couples to other providers and in spite of the deeply-held religious views of the innkeepers. In Europe, a pastor was jailed for preaching about the biblical definition of marriage. When we reject Referendum 74, we are rejecting this kind of intolerance.

The union of one man and one woman has been the definition of marriage since before Washington was a state and the United States was a country. God is the author of marriage and virtually every nation since the dawn of time has recognized marriage as one man and one woman. All citizens in our state — gay and straight — are respected and welcomed, and they have the right to live as they choose. But, they do not have the right to redefine marriage for our entire society. I urge voters to reject Referendum 74.

Dave Woodward is senior pastor at Calvary Chapel of Marysville.

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