Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Mar 13 2012

OLYMPIA—Attorney General Rob McKenna today issued the following statement in response to Judge William Thomas McPhee’s ruling today in Thurston County Superior regarding the proposed ballot title for Referendum 74. The ballot title faced dual challenges from Preserve Marriage Washington, a group supporting the referendum, and the League of Women Voters and others, who oppose the referendum.

“The Attorney General’s Office strives to put forth fair and neutral language for every ballot title as we did in this case,” McKenna said. “Notably, Judge McPhee's final ballot title does not include the phrase "redefine marriage."  That phrase was the subject of much discussion in the ballot title hearing. In his oral ruling, Judge McPhee explained that he did not remove the phrase because he thought it created undue prejudice.  He acknowledged that the bill does, in fact, redefine marriage in the literal sense that it amends the statutory definition of "marriage." He said he removed it solely out of a concern for length—he needed the words for other reasons. We hope both sides are satisfied with this ruling.”

McPhee modified the Attorney General’s Office’s proposed ballot title to read:

Statement of Subject: The Legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom, and voters have tiled a sufficient referendum petition on this bill.

Concise Description:  This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.

Ballot Measure Summary:  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.

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Contacts: Janelle Guthrie, Deputy Chief of Staff | Communications Director, (360) 586-0725