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Vol. 76/No. 41      November 12, 2012

Opponents of anti-gay bigotry
campaign against laws in 4 states
“This is an issue of equality and equity,” James Bible, president of the Seattle chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Oct. 23, urging a yes vote on state Referendum 74. If passed, the measure would amend discriminatory state marriage laws that perpetuate anti-gay prejudice and bigotry by denying equal protection to individuals on the basis of their gender or sexual orientation.

“It’s up to organizations that protect and promote civil rights to support such protections for everyone,” Bible told the Seattle Times. One of his grandparents was Swedish, the other Black. When they married, “it led to a cross-burning on their lawn here in Seattle,” he told the Seattle Gay News.

Labor support has come from the statewide and Seattle AFL-CIO; the International Association of Machinists; Service Employees International Union; Washington Education Association; Washington State Nurses Association; Joint Council of Teamsters for Washington, Alaska and N. Idaho; and numerous union locals from the United Auto Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, and AFSCME.

The Washington referendum is one of four across the country where efforts to defeat discriminatory state marriage laws are on the ballot. It is an issue important to the working class and the fight to strengthen class unity in struggle.

In three states—Maryland, Maine and Washington—the ballot measures make marriage legal for all, while one in Minnesota would reinforce legal discrimination on the basis of sex, placing a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution.

“The stakes are high for working people in fighting for civil rights and equal protection under the law,” Mary Martin, SWP candidate for governor in Washington said in a campaign talk at Tacoma Community College Oct. 30. “We join with those calling for a ‘Yes’ vote on R-74.”

Referenda to expand or curtail individual rights to civil marriage over the past few years have been on the ballot in 32 states. In each case to date, restrictions denying equal protection have prevailed.

As the debate has deepened, there’s been a substantial shift in public opinion, with support for overturning discriminatory laws gaining ground. An ABC News and Washington Post survey this year showed 53 percent in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage compared to 36 percent in 2006. Among adults 30 years old or younger some 70 percent are in favor.

Among African-Americans 59 percent are in favor, up from 41 percent just a few months earlier. “Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of law,” Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP, said at a press conference in May, announcing the group’s decision to join in the fight against discriminatory marriage laws. “We will oppose threats to the 14th Amendment guarantees of equal rights under the law in any state where this issue is raised.”

An NAACP statement said supporting civil marriage as a right goes back to the battle to defeat racist efforts by Virginia officials in the 1960s to outlaw the marriage of Richard and Mildred Loving, one Caucasian and the other Black, and jail them for it. “I support the freedom to marry for all,” Mildred Loving wrote in 2007, the last year of her life, “Black or white, young or old, gay or straight.”

As sentiment has shifted, President Barack Obama has reversed his earlier position and now opposes laws restricting marriage to a man and woman. He has called for a vote in favor of referenda in Maine, Maryland and Washington, and for a no vote in Minnesota.

In Minnesota, the Catholic Church hierarchy and affiliated organizations have contributed half of the $2 million backing the effort to engrave discrimination against gays and lesbians into the state constitution.

“The union of man and woman is not only good for the couple, but for the entire community of believers and for humanity,” Maryland Archbishop William Lori said Sept. 26, hosting a meeting of opponents to same-sex marriage.

But workers and others who are members of the Catholic Church strongly favor overturning such discriminatory laws, 58 percent for and 33 percent against.

The referenda in Washington, Maryland and Maine include provisions that no church would be required by the state to perform any marriage services if they chose not to.
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