Gay rights advocates scored a win in Thurston County Superior Court today where Judge Thomas McPhee finalized the ballot language on R-74, the pending referendum to repeal the same-sex marriage law passed earlier this session.
The judge eliminated language recommended by the Attorney General's office that would have said the legislation "would redefine marriage"—a well-calibrated phrase that has been used by the National Organization for Marriage, NOM, in its fight against same-sex marriage nationwide. They are funding the anti-gay marriage referendum here.
The final language also states right up front that religious groups are exempted from performing same-sex marriages if they don't want to.
Here's the language:
Statement of subject: The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom.
Concise description: This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.
Summary (does not appear on ballot, but does appear on petitions):
This bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender, and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnerships are converted to marriages, except for seniors. It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies. The bill does not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement.
Both sides in the fight had filed challenges to the original language, liberals arguing against the "redefine" language and conservatives arguing that the language “does not reference the significant and fundamental change in Washington’s law which would render the terms `husband’ and `wife’ as gender-neutral..."