Wash. State Marriage Watch: Expedia Goes Pro; Bishops Con; Anti-Group May Have Violated Law
It seems as though Washington state is a hotbed for all things same-sex marriage this week. With the November election less than two months away, those who strongly support and oppose Referendum 74, the state ballot measure that would formally legalize marriage equality, are making their stands hoping to persuade voters.
Expedia.com, which is based in Washington State, has announced that it would back the referendum. "As the world’s largest online travel company - with operations in well over 30 countries - we know firsthand that the world is a diverse place," Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia’s president and CEO, said in a statement released by Washington United for Marriage. "Much like our customers, clients, partners, and suppliers, our employees represent a multitude of locations, cultures and experiences."
Khosrowshahi also said that Expedia strives "to actively promote equality in our workplace" and that employees are treated with "respect and dignity."
"Supporting the legislation recently passed in Washington State - which provides same-sex couples with the same right to civil marriage that opposite sex couples already enjoy - is a natural extension of our ongoing commitment to the LGBT community," she added in the statement, which was reported in On Top Magazine.
Washington United for Marriage’s campaign manager, Zach Silk, applauded the travel website in a statement: "We are so pleased to add Expedia to our ever-expanding list of Washington-based corporate supporters."
Expedia joins the growing list of Washington State-based companies that support gay marriage, which include Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon.com and T-Mobile USA.
Although Expedia’s announcement was a boost for those who support Referendum 74, Washington’s four Catholic bishops said that the measure is a threat to religious liberty. The Washington State Catholic Conference issued the bishops’ statement on Tuesday.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer pointed out that the most controversial passage of their statement claimed that the referendum would make the church a victim of discrimination.
"The legal separation of marriage from procreation would have a chilling effect on religious liberty and the right of conscience," the statement read. "Once marriage is redefined as a genderless contract, it will become legally discriminatory for public and private institutions such as schools to promote the unique value of children being raised by their biological mothers and fathers.
"No institution or individual could propose that married mothers and fathers provide a singular benefit to children without being accused of discrimination. Recent attacks on churches, businesses and nonprofit organizations that express their conscientious objection to the redefinition of marriage underscore the danger."
The statement is signed by Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, Spokane Bishop Blaise J. Cupich, Yakima Bishop Joseph J. Tyson and Seattle’s auxiliary bishop, Eusebio Elizondo.
The religious leaders’ message may urge officials to vote against Referendum 74, but Gov. Chris Gregorie (D) has pushed for marriage equality, despite being a practicing Catholic. The measure’s chief sponsor, State Sen. Ed Murray (D), is also a practicing Roman Catholic.
"Ultimately this language only leads to marginalizing a group of people, often with tragic consequences," Murray said, "hardly reflecting the core Christian message of love."
In the statement, the bishops also argue that marriage is meant for procreation, therefore gay marriage should not be legalized.
"By separating marriage from procreation and the responsibility of men and women to raise children that result from their sexual union, the new marriage law would abandon the state’s principal interest in this time-honored institution," they wrote.
Groups supporting the measure have raised more than $5 million in TV time and an ad supporting marriage equality by the Pride Foundation aired during London Olympics.
Preserve Marriage Washington, one of the major groups that oppose Referendum 74, has only raised $471,000. The organization has also come under fire recently as it has changed its regulations for the collection money from various anti-marriage equality churches. Officials say the language is against the law, the Seattle Times notes.
"The fact that churches can call for or allow special collections on behalf of a campaign is not in question," the article reads. "The means by which the donations from these collections can be forwarded to the campaign is where state election laws kick in." According to the anti-bundling law, which was approved by voters, churches can hand out envelopes at Mass but cannot collect them and send them to campaigns.
The Preserve Marriage Washington’s website has a section called "church tools," that has "Instructions for Churches," which told churches to collect "all envelopes from donors, put them in a larger mailing envelope, put your church name and return address on the mailing envelopes and send it via regular U.S. mail" to the campaign.
"The campaign needs to designate a volunteer, not the church," Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the state Public Disclosure Commission said. She added that the PDC would contact the campaign again to make sure they understood the law. "Our advice to all of them was not to collect the contributions in Mass and send them on, in other words, not to bundle the contributions," Anderson said.