Same-Sex Marriage Mailers Raise Eyebrows

Oct 16, 2012

Some senior citizens in Washington recently got a flyer in the mail from supporters of same-sex marriage. It says approval of Referendum 74 will preserve domestic partnerships for seniors. Gay marriage opponents call the ad a misleading scare tactic. KUOW’s Liz Jones takes a closer look at that claim.

The campaign backing same-sex marriage in Washington paid for this mailer to senior citizens. It’s targeting them because Referendum 74 touches on domestic partnerships between straight seniors who live together. Washington state approved these partnerships five years ago. They’re meant to prevent seniors from losing some federal benefits if they re-marry.

Chip White is with Preserve Marriage Washington. The group opposes gay marriage. He says the ad is misleading because it suggests the referendum threatens domestic partnerships for seniors.

White: “They need to stop trying to trick senior citizens. Trying to trick seniors is shameful. Shame on them.”

The mailer starts with a paragraph about that threat to senior benefits. Then it goes on to say Approval of R74 will preserve the partnerships. It suggests the two are tied together.

That’s not really the case. State documents make it clear the partnerships will stay on the books whether the measure is approved or rejected.

The mailer itself is factual. But critics say it raises an unnecessary alarm for seniors.

Zack Silk is with Washington United for Marriage. He says the alarm already existed. The mailer aims to put seniors at ease.

Silk: “Yeah, we’d actually picked up on these concerns that seniors were concerned what would happen with domestic partnerships. And this was an important piece of the conversation in the legislature and we wanted to make sure that they knew it would not be jeopardized by approving Referendum 74.”

Silk points out Washington lawmakers debated domestic partnerships last year as they crafted the same-sex marriage law. There was talk of getting rid of the partnerships altogether. Silk says the point of the mailer is to reassure seniors that’s not the case.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio