An Open Letter on Referendum 74 in Washington State

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’ve spent a number of days–weeks even–contemplating how to discuss one component of this year’s election with you. It’s an issue that is very personal to me and many of my friends who I have met over the years. It’s one that hits home, not just for me, but for others from Odessa, Davenport, Wilbur, Reardan and more… I’m talking about an issue that was first brought up in the summer of 2004, by the front page of The Spokesman-Review. It was July 12, to be exact. I remember it all too well…and here’s the link to the article online:

Yes, the issue I’m talking about is homosexuality, and equal rights in particular.

This year, after a courageous move by the legislature and governor to support marriage equality by casting a majority vote in the House and Senate, and signing that bill into law, they did something that we can’t always rely upon the masses to do: Represent the voices of the minority and the oppressed. And this isn’t the first time that has happened:

  • Slavery: 1865
  • Women’s right to vote: 1919
  • African-Americans’ right to vote: 1965
  • Interracial marriage: 1967

All of these issues relied upon the courage, compassion, and forward-thinking mindset of our elected representatives and appointed justices to do something that the broad American public would most likely not have taken into their own hands: Make a decision to grant second-class citizens the same rights–equal, civil and human–that others already took for granted.

Now the issue of marriage equality, as it is on the ballot today, does have one major complication that the others perhaps did not have to face: Religious intolerance.

While I do not expect–nor do I aim to challenge or change anyone’s religious beliefs–I do have faith in the human desire to treat others fairly, equally and as fellow humans. It’s a principle that I would argue nearly every mainstream religion proclaims. Let me put it in other words: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

I recognize that some may not want to veer away from centuries of doctrine that were written and re-written (and re-interpreted by those individuals in power to meet their own needs). However, I challenge that way of thinking by bringing forward several “teachings” that we have since discarded as illogical, inhuman, and even immoral over the years:

  • Slavery is permitted (Leviticus 25:44 and Exodus 21:7)
  • It’s not okay to sleep with your in-laws (Lev. 20:14)
  • We can’t eat shellfish (Lev. 11:10)
  • It’s a sin to plant two different crops in the same field; same as it is to wear garments made of more than one thread (Lev. 19:19)
  • And more…

We have advanced as a society to realize that many of these doctrines were written during different times and perhaps furthered the causes of those who wrote them or empowered them to be written.

And if we leave religion out of it, then let’s look to science, and the following that say “homosexuality is not an abomination or disease”:

  • DSM-II (seventh printing) removed homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1974 by the American Psychiatric Association
  • Scholarly journal articles and research supporting the “theory” of a “gay gene” (most recently in 2012)

So let’s take a moment to analyze the arguments that are being made by the “Reject 74” campaign which is funded in our state by Preserve Marriage Washington. Which, actually, receives quite a bit of support for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) as well as Frank Schubert, NOM’s political director who has a PR firm. Okay, I digress…back to their arguments against legalizing marriage equality:

  • Children will be forced to learn about it in schools.
    Parents have the authority to remove their children from sex ed classes. History teachers focus on the issues and do not teach us about the morality of them. Our values are something we learn from you–our parents–at home and in church.
  • Those who do not agree to perform same-sex marriage services will suffer from lawsuits.
    First, I do not plan on giving my business to anyone who declines to celebrate my marriage with me–I’ll take my hard-earned money elsewhere and not spend the time, money or effort to sue them. Second, the law explicitly states that religious institutions do not need to perform the services if they do not want to.
  • The slippery slope will begin.
    What exactly are the snowballs that they are concerned about in this pending “avalanche?” Is the argument being made that the abolishment of slavery led to right for women to vote, which caused African-Americans to vote, and ultimately made it possible for interracial marriages to occur?
  • You don’t have to be anti-gay to support rejecting Referendum 74.
    I’d like to point out this statement on the Preserve Marriage Washington website: “Refusal to accommodate and recognize same-sex ‘marriages’ would be the equivalent of racial discrimination.” So in other words, it’s okay to discriminate against the LGBT population by not providing them with the same rights as others, and it’s really not discrimination because they already have “everything but marriage?”
  • They already have all the rights they needs with “everything but marriage” legislation.
    Well, let’s take a look at that, shall we? I’m not able to count them on my hands…

    • Marriage: Over 1,049 federal and state level benefits
    • Civil Unions: Over 300 state level benefits. *No federal protection

And now, I present, for your consideration, several scenarios that might have a more personal meaning:

  • The vote on Referendum 74 will determine whether I will ever be able to be truly married. I’d like that to happen. I know that the both of you would too.
  • Even if I do have a domestic partnership or civil union, I would someday be able to say, “Why yes, I am married.”
  • Preventing me from expressing my love and commitment to another person makes me less likely to have a child of my own…because in his or her eyes, both dads won’t be truly recognized as a married couple. How’s that for a conversation to have with your kids?

Please take a moment to place yourself in my shoes and consider the above statements and scenarios. Does it make you feel like a second-class citizen?

I hope that as you cast your vote, you look beyond the hurtful TV ads and rhetoric that have been designed to reinforce outdated, hateful doctrine. A “yes” vote is a vote of love for your son. And, isn’t that what it all ultimately comes down to? Love.

About lkissler

Lance Kissler Lance’s specific field of expertise includes online marketing and communications, branding, health and crisis communications
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