Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Endorse Equality: Approve Referendum 74!

By Susan LaLone

YWCA Clark County endorses Referendum 74 and urges you to do the same this November. Referendum 74 recognizes our friends, neighbors and co-workers have equal rights in all aspects of life, including, marriage in Washington State.

YWCA’s long time mission of promoting justice and freedom for all is truly reflected in this referendum, which has already been passed into law by the state legislature. Courts and commissions in a number of states have found that civil unions for gay and lesbian couples do not provide the same rights as the legal bond of marriage. While some of the legal rights married couples take for granted are incorporated into civil unions, this type of treatment only serves to invite and encourage unequal treatment of same sex couples and their children.

In the 1954 case Brown vs. the Board of Education the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that separate but equal in education is not equal. Courts in California and Connecticut have found the same applies in matters of marriage. While civil unions were a big step forward in legitimizing a couple’s legal status, these courts have found this type of differentiation is harmful to all involved.  The Connecticut court goes so far as to state civil unions and marriage are “by no means equal.”

Commissions in several states also find that the differences between marriage and civil unions can allow economic, health and social harms to exist. Commissions in both New Jersey and Vermont have findings on record that show by allowing employers the option of imposing federal rules (as stated in the Defense of Marriage Act) rather than New Jersey Civil Union rules, retirement benefits have been applied to legal partners differently than married couples. This allows economic harm to survivors. These states also find emergency health care providers often need lengthy explanations as to legal differences between civil unions and marriage before allowing legal partners access to injured or ill partners in medical emergencies. Put yourself in the position of being emotionally distraught by the injury or illness of your spouse or partner, then imagine having to explain your relationship and prove it is legal before being given any information as to their condition. Finally, social sanctions are often applied to children of civil unions when school mates discover their parents are not legally married. This often takes the form of bullying.

Within the past several months two American icons of the space program have passed away. Neal Armstrong’s widow and family will receive full benefits from a grateful nation for his deeds. Sally Ride, another equally important figure in the nation’s astronaut corps passed. Her long time partner will not receive equal benefits or recognition.

It is time to end this type of inequity, and Washington State voters can begin the change. With your ballot now available, take the time to complete it and mail it off. It is our turn to vote to ensure same sex couples receive the same treatment traditional marriage gives everyone else. Please stand with YWCA Clark County and vote to approve Referendum 74.  It is simply the right thing to do.

Those who wish to celebrate with us may join us and the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus at a post election celebration as we welcome elected officials, community leaders, and guest speakers to offer their remarks on the outcome of Referendum 74 and the national movement toward marriage equality. We will explore the ramifications of the November 6 General Election for the LGBTQ community. As always, the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus will lift up its voice and sing inspirational anthems.

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