Stickney wants 'everything but marriage' repealed via referendum

Arlington resident Larry Stickney has filed paperwork for a referendum to repeal what he calls “everything but marriage” legislation. - Kirk Boxleitner
Arlington resident Larry Stickney has filed paperwork for a referendum to repeal what he calls “everything but marriage” legislation.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — Ever since Arlington resident Larry Stickney filed paperwork May 4 for a referendum to repeal what he’s called “everything but marriage” legislation, his cell phone has not stopped ringing.

Stickney, president of the Washington Values Alliance, chuckled as he recalled some of the less-than-complimentary comments that have been made about him online, but he acknowledged that the issue of determining legal rights for gay couples is bound to be a controversial one.

Stickney opposes Senate Bill 5688, which Gov. Christine Gregoire is expected to sign into law by May 18, because he believes that it effectively legalizes gay and lesbian marriage in Washington, by extending the same rights and benefits to same-sex domestic partners that it currently offers married couples, including those related to their jobs, their work benefits and certain legal proceedings.

Stickney filed paperwork with the Washington Secretary of State for Referendum 71, May 4, and if opponents of Senate Bill 5688 turn in the signatures of 120,577 valid voters by July 25, the referendum will earn a spot on the Nov. 3 ballot. If Referendum 71 succeeds, same-sex domestic partnerships will remain legal, but those couples will not gain the expansions of their rights proposed by Senate Bill 5688.

According to Stickney, he hadn’t expected to attract quite as much attention when he went to the Secretary of State’s office May 4, since that office informed the media of Stickney’s scheduled visit, without informing Stickney to expect the media’s presence. Stickney registered a complaint with the Secretary of State himself, over feelings of being ambushed, but at the same time, he wondered why he was suddenly receiving so much press attention now.

“We’ve been working on this for two years,” Stickney said. “I love the freedom of the press, but I am a bit critical of their selective bias. We couldn’t even get our editorials in print about this issue before.”

Stickney believes that the news media of western Washington has ignored, and even exhibited hostility toward, groups such as the Washington Values Alliance, because of a bias in support of equalizing gay marriage. He also cited polling research which he sees as indicative of a more widespread support for his group’s cause, outside of Seattle and other cities.

Supporters of Senate Bill 5688 argue that it simply establishes equal treatment, and point out that it doesn’t undo the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Stickney, however, sees this proposed law as yet another precedent-setting incremental step toward legalizing gay marriage by “judicial fiat.”

Stickney stated that he has no desire to see Washington state go through the same battle that California went through over Proposition 8, but he believes a referendum is an appropriate response to those he deemed “radicals” in support of Senate Bill 5688, a group that he believes doesn’t even constitute a majority of the state Democratic Party, let alone the state population as a whole.

“A referendum, after all, simply means that you’re referring the matter directly to the people,” Stickney said. “The standard that is best for society is one mother and one father to raise a child. Biologically, that’s the best-case scenario. We can’t all achieve it, but it still deserves a protected status. We can’t just say that all things are marriage, and we’d prefer not to have this sweeping change to society foisted upon those of us who are raising our families as we see fit.”

Stickney anticipates that “an electronic grass-roots” movement of supporters will ultimately vindicate his group’s position.

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