Same-sex marriage supporters, even while accusing those on the other side of the issue hate and intolerance, have increasingly turned to intimidation — and even violence – just a week before the state will vote on Referendum 74.
According to Preserve Marriage Washington, which sponsored the ballot initiative in an effort to repeal a same-sex marriage law passed last spring by the state Legislature, volunteers have had their campaign signs vandalized and torn down – even on private property – and a 61-year-old Burien resident was even attacked by an enraged gay man in what police are calling a “hate crime.”
“Respect? Tolerance? Freedom of speech? Not from those who would redefine marriage,” stated a message on the group’s Facebook page on Saturday. “Across the state, same-sex marriage advocates have engaged in vandalism, theft, trespassing, harassment and assault in an effort to discourage those who believe marriage to be between one man and one woman. While they demand acceptance, they show their true colors in their own intolerance and hatred. Sad.”
The website includes links to dozens of pictures of vandalized signs, as well as a video of a gay-marriage activist spitting and swearing at a traditional marriage supporter at a sign-waving event in Tacoma.
More recently, Arlene Mark, a Preserve Marriage Washington volunteer, was attacked as she sat in her car waiting to distribute anti-Referendum 74 literature in the parking lot of a Safeway supermarket in Burien.
Police reports say a young man ran pounded her car and ripped a campaign sign from her bumper, screaming obscenities as he did so.
When Nikki Davis, a pregnant, 36-year-old bystander attempted to assist Mark, the assailant turned his attention to her, pushing her and hurling racial epithets.
““The other side wants to intimidate us,” Mark said. “But we can’t stop standing up for traditional marriage. Protecting traditional marriage is just too important for our kids and grandkids. I don’t want my grandkids taught in public school that same sex-marriage is the same as traditional marriage.”
“It’s awful that the ‘Approve R-74’ campaign wants Arlene to feel bad for reporting the attack they suffered,” said Preserve Marriage Washington Communications Director Chip White.
“Arlene is a grandmother who was sitting quietly in her car and Nikki wasn’t even involved with the campaign.
“This should serve as a wakeup call,” he said. “Same-sex marriage activists are far from tolerant of those who believe in traditional marriage.”
If the referendum is approved, Washington would be the first state in the nation in which gay marriage was approved by a vote of the people. The practice is currently legal in six states, but only as a result of judicial decree or a bill passed by that state’s Legislature.
When given a chance to decide for themselves, voters in 32 out of 32 states have rejected gay marriage.
Reliably liberal Washington was considered a lock to end that losing streak by passing Referendum 74. As recently as last month, support for the measure was running 14 percentage points ahead of the opposition.
Last week, however, an Elway Research poll found the two sides in a statistical dead heat with the Nov. 6 general election looming.
At least one observer thinks the late strength shown by Referendum 74 opponents has always been there.
“I think the reason why no one is liking anything or speaking out is because we don’t want our businesses trashed, signs burned, cars destroyed or (to be) bullied at school,” wrote Cina McBride on Protect Marriage Washington’s Facebook page. “There are those who don’t say anything, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily are for it. They’re just scared of being harassed, of being targeted if they do.
“No one wants to lose their jobs over rejecting this,” she wrote, “so we are going to be threatened into submission. Nice way to get a vote.”