Joe Mirabella

Reject 71 campaign tries to spin history

Filed By Joe Mirabella | November 20, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Approve 71, domestic partnership, Larry Stickney, Protect Marriage Washington, referendum 71, washington r-71, Washington State

You would think the Reject 71 campaign won in Washington from their first message to supporters after their resounding defeat by the Approve 71 campaign.

In the Reject 71 Campaign Manager Larry Stickney's typical truth bending style he wrote:

Not that we didn't expect it, but the R-71 campaign was handicapped by the bias of our incredibly liberal and increasingly shameless statewide media complex. Like a mantra, the ACCEPT R-71 campaign's talking points were reflexively repeated by nearly every Washington State newspaper, radio, and TV station. How many times did we hear or read that "SB 5688 and R-71 is not about marriage, but domestic partnerships...period"?

It is true, we ran a very effective campaign that earned the endorsement of every main stream newspaper in the state. However, to call those newspapers "incredibly liberal" is blatantly false.

Washington's largest newspaper, The Seattle Times endorsed the Approve 71 campaign, LarryStickley.jpgbut they also endorsed George W. Bush in 2000, and in 2009 they endorsed Susan Hutchinson (our very own pro-life-science-be-damned-Sarah-Palinesque candidate.)

The endorsements rolled in because this election was about one simple fact, treating all families equally under the law is the right thing to do. Our opponent's message was such a blatant lie that no self respecting organization could stand behind it. Referendum 71 was about Domestic Partnerships not marriage, as our opponents so often liked to say.

Stickney's revisionist history continued:

Washington conservatives should take heart; the battle for marriage and family values in Washington State is far from over. Despite University of Washington polls showing overwhelming support for either same-sex marriage or domestic partnerships prior to Election Day on Nov. 3, our opponents barely reached a 53% majority statewide, and would have been soundly beaten were it not for the greater Seattle vote!

2009 was an off year election. We knew going into this campaign that older more conservative voters have a better voting record during off year elections. Our primary goal was to win votes in areas where we could turn out the progressive vote. It is true that Seattle and Western Washington were home to the most votes. In Seattle we won 80% of the vote. We did not win on Seattle alone though, we won because we won votes throughout the entire state.

The story in Eastern Washington was more complex than our opponents would have you believe. In every county accept for one, we showed growth in support for LGBT equality. Not only was there growth, but we won in Eastern Washington urban areas like Spokane, Tacoma and others. This proves that our ongoing education effort is working.

Washington has unique geographic barriers that made it difficult for us to travel from region to region. Fortunately our social networking campaign was not impeded by our state's volcanoes, waterways, islands, or mountain ranges. In just six short weeks over 40,000 fans joined our campaign from all over the state. Some of the most active regions online were in Eastern Washington.

The Approve 71 campaign only had 6 weeks to win this election. It was the shortest election in Washington state history. We were at a further disadvantage because it is far easier to reject a referendum than to approve one. Referendum 71 was only the 6th referendum to be approved by voters in history, while 29 have been rejected.

Yet in that short time period we built one of the strongest coalitions in State history. We had over 500 coalition partners. Approximately 200 of our coalition partners were from faith based communities.

While the newspaper endorsements and factual reporting from journalists were certainly helpful, we won because there is broad support for LGBT equality in Washington.

I am not surprised Larry Stickney is trying to rewrite history to motivate his base to donate to his organization. He is the leader of the first defeated anti-equality campaign in history. He needs to make a living. According to PDC reports he personally profited from the Reject 71 campaign. In just six months he paid himself $26,440.00. He also reimbursed himself for $3352.48 for gas. Somebody needs a hybrid!

But seriously, Stickney stands to make a lot more at the expense of our families. We should take his threat seriously. He intends to forge ahead, and so do we.

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Celebrating an LGBT victory in Washington

By Sam Bernstein | November 19, 2009

SEATTLE--Some 200 people came out to Westlake Plaza in downtown Seattle on November 14 to celebrate the historic victory of Referendum 71 on Election Day.

Referendum 71 was a ballot initiative that asked voters whether or not they approve of a domestic partnerships law passed last May by the Washington state government. The domestic partnerships grant same-sex partners the same state benefits and rights as civil marriage, but without calling it marriage.

Thanks to the hard work of many volunteers and activists, Referendum 71 was approved by 53 percent to 47 percent. Support for domestic partnerships was strongest in the urban and liberal areas around Seattle and Puget Sound, but weakest in rural areas and Eastern Washington. A full 80 percent of voters in Seattle voted to approve.

With marriage equality defeated in Maine's Question 1, Referendum 71 marks the first time that same-sex couples have gained or maintained rights that were put up for a popular vote anywhere in the U.S. While demonstrators celebrated this feat and a victory for LGBT rights, everyone was also clear that there are so many rights in so many places that are still denied to LGBT people.

As Stuart Wilber--who is 71 years old, has been with his partner for 32 years and recently marched in Washington, D.C., at the National Equality March--put it, "This election is over, and we won. But now it's time to have a conversation about human rights, equal rights and civil rights--rights that are guaranteed to everyone by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."

"I'm tired of waiting," he continued from the rally stage. "I've been waiting my whole life, and I don't have much more time to wait."

In a moving visual display, he was joined on stage by his partner and dozens of other couples who can now receive domestic partnership rights like sharing health benefits, death benefits and hospital visitation rights.

Lt. Dan Choi--a West Point graduate, combat veteran and Arab linguist who was fired from the National Guard under "don't ask, don't tell" after coming out on the Rachel Maddow Show--was the rally's featured speaker. He fired up the crowd, declaring, "I was discharged for saying three simple words: 'I love you.' Now if that's illegal, then give me the death penalty, because I will say it until the day I die!"

Choi went on to address those who would tell LGBT people to wait for their rights. "Some people tell us to be good little gays," he said. "'You have domestic partnerships now. Can't you just be happy?'" The crowd responded with a resounding, "No!" "I am not satisfied," Choi roared back. "We are not satisfied. The era of asking is over! Now is the time to fight...In the face of discrimination, silence is not a strategy--waiting is not a plan."

Josh Castle--a volunteer who mobilized grassroots visibility to Approve 71 with street tablings, bar crawls and freeway overpass sign-waving--summed up the mood of the event: "Let's savor this sweet moment and then get back to work!"

Other speakers at the rally included Ann Levinson and Josh Friedes, leaders of the Approve 71 campaign; Steve Williamson, community affairs director for UFCW Local 21, which donated money and phone-banking space to the campaign in addition to calling all of their 35,000 members; Marsha Botzer, co-chair of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and a member of the National Equality March steering committee; Emily Juhre of University of Washington Students Organizing for LGBT Equality (UW SOLE); Carmen Rivera of the Seattle University Triangle Club; and Eduardo Brambila of SeattleOUTProtest.

The rally was organized by SeattleOUTProtest, Seattle Gay News, UW SOLE, SU Triangle Club, Pride at Work, Join the Impact, Washington Marriage Alliance, and the International Socialist Organization and MC'd by Aleksa Manila, a local drag queen celebrity.

I'm naturally an optimist, but I am still so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of actual education that occurred during this campaign. We knocked on doors, called our friends, called out liars in the media, talked to strangers in the streets- all rational and humanizing approaches to an issue which I believe (again as an optimist) people- once fully informed and prepared, knew was just the RIGHT THING TO DO.
And that rocks,
because you can't take back education.


You are absolutely right. We made well over 200,000 phone calls and knocked on thousands of doors. All that worked paid off.

You were dealing with some crazies up there in Washington. "R-71 is about domestic partnerships, not marriage" isn't a talking point. It isn't a personal point of view, it's not an opinion, and it's not a brilliant way to frame the debate devised by the Approve campaign. It's a basic description of reality. What were newspapers supposed to do, say that it was about marriage even though it wasn't?

It's a great example of the right's truthiness, though. They're used to saying that the media is liberally biased for only fact-checking them, blah blah blah, but this has to be one of the clearest examples of the right trying to re-create reality. And then, on top of it, getting mad when newspapers don't go along. It takes a lot of chutzpah.

As imports to Western Washington's LEAST progressive enclave (Lynden) from New York State 9 years ago. My wife and I are SO VERY PROUD to be adopted Washingtonians in an era when YOUR efforts made history in America. No other referendum has made it through the voting process in support of equal rights.

This makes your success that much BIGGER, in that you have set a precedent for other states to follow (are you looking Maine? California?)

Well done, well done. We are proud hetero supports of the LGBT community and all that this process meant.

just fyi, Tacoma is in Western Washington, not Eastern.

Not only was there growth, but we won in Eastern Washington urban areas like Spokane, Tacoma and others.

Umm... Tacoma isn't in Eastern WA.
Not trying to be a dick or anything. I support the cause and I'm ecstatic R-71 passed. Just pointing it out.

Great post, but I have a slight nitpick about the following sentence:

"Not only was there growth, but we won in Eastern Washington urban areas like Spokane, Tacoma and others."

This would seem to suggest that Tacoma is in Eastern Washington...

Thanks for keeping us updated on this! Awesome points!


Good catch. Tacoma is South of Seattle. It is in Pierce county where the majority of votes went to the reject campaign, but Tacoma voted to Approve.

He is the leader of the first defeated anti-equality campaign in history.

Wait, huh? Really? Here in Oregon we defeated Lon Mabon and the OCA several times. We even got him jail time -- that's pretty soundly defeated. Didn't California also defeat the Briggs Initiative? It's not like we were winning 100%, but I do remember more wins then losses before the electoral campaigns became about marriage (and to a lesser extent domestic partnerships).

Can you explain what you mean by this statement? Were you trying to say that this was the first marriage/domestic partnership anti-equality campaign to fail?

Absolutely not! The successes we've had everywhere counts. What makes history here is that this is the first time that an domestic equality measure was enacted, not by court or legislation, but by the "will of the people".


I did not mean to diminish other victories. I should have been more specific. This is the first time voters have approved the expansion of rights for same sex families at the ballot box. It is also the first time voters approved all the same state rights of marriage for same sex couples.

Well, you can't expect them to just up and say, "The ran a better campaign and had public opinion on their side. Kudos to them!"

This is the religious right. When the facts don't suit their world view, they lie.