Referendum 74, as it was known, won with 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent of the vote, which was much tighter than most polls predicted but nevertheless disappointing for traditionalists in the state. The new law will take effect Dec. 6.
In what was a historic Election Day for gay activists, voters in Maine and Maryland also legalized same-sex marriage by margins similar to Washington's.
"While we are disappointed, we are not defeated," Joseph Backholm, chairman of the traditional group Preserve Marriage Washington, said in a statement. "We are fighting for a cause that is true, and beautiful, and right -- the sacred institution of marriage. It's a cause worth fighting for, and we will continue to educate citizens and policymakers on the timeless truth that real marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
"We knew this was not going to be an easy fight," Backholm continued. "Washington is a deep blue state and one of the most secular states in the country. Washington has a very high percentage of voters who never attend church, and polling showed that 80 percent of unchurched voters approved of Referendum 74."
Supporters of gay marriage had a huge financial advantage and outspent opponents by $10 million, Backholm said. Additionally, he said, statewide media was a cheerleader for Referendum 74, with The Seattle Times not just endorsing it but spending money on ads urging citizens to vote for it. It was an unprecedented move by the newspaper.
Backholm also rejected the argument -- as some pundits have promoted -- that Election Day marked a turning point for gay marriage legalization nationwide.
"It's not a turning point to win on your home turf," he said. "The election results reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in this very liberal and secular state. The results show only that in a deep blue state, with a huge financial advantage, gay marriage activists can win --- barely. Further, the results indicate that a significant percentage of Washington voters are troubled by redefining marriage. Washingtonians know that women and men are not interchangeable -- that children need both a mother and a father -- and this election does not represent a sea change in their understanding of that reality."
TV ads sponsored by Protect Marriage Washington warned that legalization would lead to gay marriage being taught as normative in schools, as has happened in Massachusetts. Ads also said it would lead to threats, lawsuits and even the firing of people who support the traditional definition of marriage. The ads gave an example for each charge: 1) the bullying of Chick-fil-A after its president supported the biblical definition of marriage and it was told by several politicians it wasn't welcome in their cities, 2) the firing of Damian Goddard, a Canadian sports anchor who was axed after announcing his opposition to gay marriage and 3) the legal case involving a husband and wife who own a Vermont bed and breakfast and were sued after a lesbian couple was denied usage of the property for a wedding reception.
Passage of gay marriage in the three states -- as well as defeat of a marriage amendment in Minnesota -- came six months after North Carolina voters approved, by a margin of 61-39 percent, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. That amendment went even further than the one defeated in Minnesota by also prohibiting New Jersey-style civil unions. Thirty states define marriage within their constitutions as being between a man and a woman.
Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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