Sunday, November 8, 2009

LGBT History Is Made With Washington Voters Approving Referendum 71

UPDATE: Washington's Secretary of State blog says Referendum 71 goes into effect 12-3-09, essentially calling a victory.

Washington state voters have ushered in a new moment in LGBT history by approving the state's new "everything but marriage" domestic partnership law.

With 69% of the expected vote counted Thursday, Referendum 71 lead 52% to 48%, roughly the numbers of the votes in Maine, but there, residents voted against marriage equality. This is great news for LGBT rights after that crushing blow.

"This moment in history is simply unprecedented," says Joe Mirabella on Seattle PI. Joe worked tirelessly with many bloggers, including Lurleen at Pam's House Blend, as part of the netroots team for the Approve Referendum 71 campaign.

"Referendum 71 was only the 6th referendum in Washington history to ever be approved by Washington voters. It is far easier to reject a referendum than approve one. In only 6 weeks we changed the conversation from the decline to sign campaign, to one of approve," Joe continued. "We faced an off year election, when older more conservative voters have a far better voting record. An LGBT referendum has never been approved by voters anywhere in the United States, that is until November 3 when fair minded voters from throughout the state said, "yes we want equality for all Washington families."

National gay-rights groups concur, saying the passage of Referendum 71 marks the first time a state's voters have approved a gay equality measure at the ballot box.

"This victory promotes fairness, supports families, and is good for Washington state and the country. This victory sends the message that no family should be left vulnerable and without basic protections because of someone else's prejudices," said Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

"This is a wonderful victory for all those who value fairness and equality," said Josh Friedes, Approve Referendum 71 campaign manager. "Washingtonians have defended fairness and taken a strong stand for all families. We would not be celebrating this victory if it were not for Washingtonians' commitment to civil rights, our amazing campaign staff, our volunteers, our community and allies, and the support of organizations like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The Task Force spent time with us on the ground to train our campaign field team and contributed financially to help us ensure this victory."

Lurleen remarked on the voter map posted to the left, pointing out how much has changed in Washington in such a short amount of time.

"The last time Washington voters had the opportunity to ratify a pro-equality law at the polls was in 1997. Initiative to the People 677 proposed an employment non-discrimination law," Lurleen said. "The ballot title read Shall discrimination based on sexual orientation be prohibited in employment, employment agency, and union membership practices, without requiring employee partner benefits or preferential treatment?

"The measure was rejected 59.7% to 40.3%," she continues. "Contrary to the current image of the Puget Sound area of Washington as progressive, not one single county - not even Seattle's home of King County - voted to approve I-677. Contrast that with the current election where the electorate as a whole approved R-71 and majorities in 10 of Washington's 39 counties have approved R-71. But the truly stunning statistic is that the rate of ballot measure approval increased between 1997 and 2009 in all but one county."

This should make anti-LGBT forces quake in their boots. After their victory in Maine, they have continually declared that the tide is in fact not turning against them but in fact moving with them. Sounds like they spoke a little too soon.



  1. I hope this celebration is not premature. The Seattle Times reported this morning that it looks like Referendum 71 has been approved because there are 600,000 votes outstanding, and more than half of them are in King County (Seattle), where the vote has been 2 to 1 in our favor. However, on the Secretary of State's website, King County is said to have only 13,800 ballots left to process. If so, that may not portend good news. I hope that the celebration is warranted, but I am going to wait before popping the champagne corks.

  2. If you do the math, then it's a near impossibility for a rejection.

  3. It's impossible to do the math without accurate numbers. If there are only 220,000 votes out, then it would depend on where they are from before one can say that it is impossible to overcome a 50,000 vote deficit. If the bulk of them are from Eastern Washington, some counties of which have voted against us by 7-1 margins, then it is possible that Reject will win. If they are from the ten counties that we are winning in handily, then of course it will be impossible for a rejection. I don't want to celebrate something before all the votes are counted. I remember the elation early on Tuesday when we were winning in Maine, only to see the jubilation replaced with despair as our lead slipped away and became an increasingly large deficit.

  4. There is absolutely no doubt that we won. The Governor issued a statement of congratulations. The bulk of votes yet to be counted are in areas that voted to approve 71. We anticipate the margin to grow slightly as the rest of the votes are tallied.

  5. I hope this is correct. But this morning we were 50,000 votes ahead. Now we are 45,000 votes ahead. Wish I had your certainty, but we were told that there were not enough signatures to qualify for the referendum, but the Secretary of State's office nevertheless certified the referendum. They are the same ones who will be certifying the election results.

  6. We currently seem to have about an 80,000 vote lead, and there are a lot of votes left in King County, so I think we have won, probably by a 53-47 margin. However, I am struck by the difference in the final vote and the final poll. The last poll said there were 57% in favor and 38% opposed. Obviously, the Bradley effect was at work in this poll (and undoubtedly in the polls from Maine). I wonder if the recent poll from California showing 51% in favor of marriage equality may also be too optimistic?

  7. @Jay:

    Actually, the polling on R71 has been pretty good, with no Bradley effect. I think only one poll showed support higher than what we got and that was w/in the margin of error. All other polls showed us at anywhere from 48-51%. So we actually did better than all polls (except the one outlier) predicted.

    I don't know, but I suspect this is b/c our side had a 5-1 spending advantage and that disparity eventually has an impact.

    Anyway, I am delighted at what is likely to be a 6 point win. Since the other side explicitly made this about marriage, we should throw this in their face at every opportunity. So we now have 2 contests in which attempts to eliminate DP have failed (WA and AZ) and we have another 2 contests in which gay marriage opponents were forced to highlight their support of DP in order to win (CA and ME).

  8. Steven, that is not true. The last poll, released on November 1, conducted by the University of Washington, showed that among likely voters 57% would vote in favor of domestic partnerships and 38% against. (See an analysis of the poll here: Obviously, that did not happen, since the result is likely to be 53% in favor and 47% against. Not only did all the undecideds break against us, but we did not the 57% of likely voters who said they were in favor of domestic partnerships. Looks like the Bradley effect to me.

  9. @Jay:

    Did you read my comment? I acknowledged that there was one poll that backed up what you were saying. But it was an outlier poll and even it was w/in the margin of error. To be a true Bradley effect, it would have to be a phenomenon independent of standard error.

    No other poll showed us at 57%. Every other poll showed us winning but below 50% or in 2 polls conducted by WAFST's internal pollster, at 51%. Surprisingly, the independent polls showed no Bradley effect and were too pessimistic. The internal WAFST polls were spot on. And only one independent poll - the one you cite -was unduly favorable, albeit w/in the margin of error. When all polls are considered, I don't think there is any support for a Bradley effect in WA. ME is another story.