Getting Engaged for Marriage Equality

Right now, in this crucial moment in time, we have the opportunity to make history happen. In every state that marriage equality has gone to the voters, the opposition has used dishonest, misleading tactics to persuade voters to vote against allowing same-sex marriage. Groups like the National Organization for Marriage have build a very successful political machine that knows exactly how to play on people’s fears and spread blatant misinformation about what marriage equality means. They raise money like it’s nothing, spending millions without hesitation in state after state.

But this November, Washington State has the opportunity to break that streak.

There is no secular reason to oppose marriage equality. The only opposition to same-sex marriage comes from these religious fundamentalists who want to codify their religious definition of marriage into law. They want to deny other theistic institutions their freedom to marry loving, committed same-sex couples, thus denying them their freedom of religion. This is clearly a separation of church & state issue.

But it’s also a human issue. Meet Colleen. Colleen is awesome. She took a leave of absence from her job and has been working as a volunteer coordinator for Washington United for Marriage since June. She typically puts in about 60 hours a week.

And why is she this crazy? Because she doesn’t just want to be married according to Canada’s laws; she wants to get marriage to her wife in her home state of Washington. She wants their son to grow up feeling like his family is just as legitimate and stable as every other family in their neighborhood. The day this picture was taken, she had forgone a trip to the aquarium with her wife and son so that she could be with me and six other new volunteer recruits for our morning orientation. She is so devoted to making sure that Referendum 74 is approved in November that she’s willing to give up so much of her time, energy and sanity to train every volunteer she can.

Fortunately, the rest of us don’t have to be quite so insane to make sure Ref. 74 is approved. If you live in Washington State, there are oodles of ways you can make a difference right now:

  • Volunteer at a phone bank to reach undecided voters. (It’s even possible to do this if you are far from a phone bank or live outside of Washington State!)
  • Create a Millions for Marriage page to add a personal touch to your fund raising efforts.
  • Throw a party! (…or other kind of fund raising event.)
  • Canvas your neighborhood with signs that say APPROVE Ref. 74.
  • Talk to businesses in your neighborhood and ask them to support Ref. 74.
  • Reach out to your friends and family explaining why this is an important issue to you and should be to them.
  • Write a letter-to-the-editor of your local newspaper showing your support.
  • Simple as it seems, clicking “Like” and WU4M’s Facebook page really does help.
  • And of course, if you don’t have the time to volunteer, you can always donate.

We’ll win this fight by connecting with people and getting them engaged for marriage equality. And we have to get engaged or else the fundamentalists will win again.

About Ericka M. Johnson

As a lover of science and reason, Ericka M. Johnson has an affinity for evolutionary biology and is the president of Seattle Atheists. She revels in any opportunity for a thoughtful debate on the meaning of life, the universe, and everything (especially over a pint.) Follow her on twitter @ErickaMJohnson

  • Garren

    “There is no secular reason to oppose marriage equality.”

    I’m not so sure about that. Typically, those who cite scripture in opposition to same sex marriage are just citing social norms from the time those things were written, without much in the way of especially religious reasoning. People didn’t like homosexuality back then, so religion reflected the secular culture.

    Today, secular culture is changing and some forms of religion have failed to keep up. This makes fundamentalist religion look responsible for sexism and heterosexism, but I don’t believe that’s historically accurate any more than it would be to blame religion for slavery.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Did you have an example for a secular reason to oppose marriage equality?

  • CoboWowbo

    “A June 2012 survey by Public Policy Polling found that a majority of Washington voters are in favor of gay marriage. 51% thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 42% thought it should be illegal and 7% were not sure. The same poll found that Washington voters under the age of 65 support gay marriage by a 55/39 margin.”

    Sounds like it has a chance…

  • ErickaMJohnson

    It has a very good chance of winning. It’s certainly not going to be a slam dunk, there’s still a lot of work to do. Washington United for Marriage is working very hard to make sure that people who support marriage equality actually know about the referendum and know they’re supposed to vote for it. 

    And of course, they’ll be spending millions on ads to counter the fear mongering that will come from the opposition. Their ads so far have been brilliant and touching.

  • Garren

    Some reasons might be:

    * It’s a break with thousands of years of tradition.
    * Homosexuality is not evolutionary adaptive.
    * Gays are icky and should be kept out of sight.
    * It’s just intuitively wrong.

    Now these aren’t reasons I agree with, but they’re not religious reasons. It’s not like there’s some scientific fact of the matter that decides value and policy questions; it depends on what values and policies you already accept.

    That may be nit picking, but I’m bothered when people put forward a value statement and label it as the secular position, as if disregarding gods produces answers to a variety of topics that aren’t intrinsically related to gods.

  • Thecommenter123

    I am surprised that you could make the claim that there is no secular reason to oppose the redefining of marriage. 
    Either the word “marriage” means something or it means nothing and can be redefined to mean anything. If it doesn’t mean “one man and one woman joined in an exclusive and state-sanctioned relationship”, what does it mean? Any two people who love each other and want the legal benefits of so-called “traditional marriage”? If that’s what it means, then can a man marry his sister, or his brother? If not, why not? Can a woman marry her grandfather? If not, why not? Can a woman marry her son? If not, why not? 
    And can a man marry two wives? Why does this new definition of marriage exclude three-person relationships? 

    We come here to this question: Why does the state get involved in marriage at all? If it’s just about two (or hey, more than two – tell me, why not?) people expressing their love and commitment, why does it need the state’s sanction and why the laws around it?

  • Rebecca Friedman

    There is no rational, non-religiously grounded reason.  (1) tradition that is based in religious institutions declaring man-woman or man-woman-woman-woman-etc..  (2)Evolutionary adaptation is descriptive, not proscriptive.  The evolution argument is one employed by religious opponents searching some “scientific” justification.  Scientific or anthropological history judges not our secular laws. (3) based on religious propoganda and dogma, when you get down to it. (4) intuition that is coded for after generations of cultural programming from religious institutions.  

    The position for keeping two consenting adults of any gender from entering into legal marriage is grounded only in religion.  The scientific and psychological and medical communities have all come to the conclusion that marriage discrimination cannot be upheld using any of the principles of their fields.  What’s left?  Religion.  

    This isn’t related to gods.  Secular laws are laws that are outside the purview of religion.  

  • MaryD

    This just isn’t an ‘equality’ issue. The individual’s ‘right’ to marry is independent of that individual’s sexuality. We all have lots of ‘rights’ that we may not have the ability or inclination to exercise.

    The real agenda here is the destruction of marriage, led by Frankfurt Marxists, whose aim is to destroy  any structure in society.

    “What does it matter if marriage is re-defined, it won’t affect my marriage will it?”, you might say. Well that is like giving every ‘patient’ that presents to the school nurse, with a minor scratch, a full-blown “Purple Heart”, that wouldn’t detract from those given to military ‘heroes’ would it? Of course it would, and in so doing the whole structure of military awards would have been destroyed.

  • Coyotenose

     Well good golly gosh, if only we’d known that equality was a MARXIST scheme, then that silly Civil Rights Movement thing could have been avoided.

    Oh wait, paranoid, lying bigots were calling Civil Rights a communist scheme back then, also. They were the same sort of people who are so dishonest that they have to make out “signing a contract between two adults” to “being a wounded war hero.” Pathetic.

    Nice job of claiming that marriage is magical and something only Real People can do, and therefore the Gays can’t have any. Jesus you people are sick.

  • Pisk_A_Dausen

    Wow. One couple’s love, commitment and family is to another couple’s love, commitment and family what a small cut is to the Purple Heart. That’s… wow. Could you shout your bigotry a little louder, I don’t think Curiosity’s recorder caught it the first time.

  • Pisk_A_Dausen

    Someone commented in this blog once that it’s wrong to give gay couples the tax relief that comes with marriage as that relief is supposed to give couples a better financial situation to raise children in.

    (Yes, the counter-arguments to that are plentiful and obvious, but that’s still a secular reason held by someone who claimed to be an atheist.)

  • Rory

    To be perfectly frank, yes, any two adult who love each other and want the benefits of so-called traditional marriage should have the right to marry. Polygamy is a different kind of thing: we’d need to build a legal framework to manage things like child custody and joint ownership of property, but that’s potentially doable. Incest laws exist mainly because historically we see incest as taboo–I can understand why such laws have existed, but if an adult brother and sister (or brother and brother, or sister and sister) decide they want to marry, why shouldn’t they be able to?

    I don’t think it’s the state that needs to get out of marriage; it’s religion that needs to go. If civil marriage produced all the same rights as traditional marriage, that would in no way infringe on the right of a particular faith to recognize or not recognize the validity of that marriage, but it would provide everyone with access to the same government-sanctioned privileges. I don’t see that as redefining marriage any more than allowing divorced people to remarry redefines marriage.

  • M J Shepherd

    And most of those “secular reasons” rest on fallacious ground and terrible science, so they can be dismissed.

  • M J Shepherd

    Incredible. I’m shocked anyone would believe such tripe.

  • M J Shepherd

    >>Either the word “marriage” means something or it means nothing and can be redefined to mean anything.

    Or, it means something that has already been changed throughout human history and cultural boundaries, and your fallacious argument has no legs to stand on.

  • Bill Haines

    The Facebook link is 404, the actual link is :)

  • Stev84

    Then the solution isn’t to deny those benefits (or at least some of them) to gay couples, but to restrict them to couples with children – regardless of their sexuality.

  • Kevin S.

    An even better chance if the libertarians win their suit and keep Romney off the ballot. Some equality opponents will show up and vite Johnson because he’s not Obama, and some will show up just to vote against 74, but having a marriage equality referendum when the two biggest candidates on the ballot both support SSM is a very positive environment for the measure.

  • M J Shepherd

    >>Yes, the counter-arguments to that are plentiful and obvious, but that’s still a secular reason held by someone who claimed to be an atheist.

    If there’s a plethora of counters that are obvious, then it’s not a legitimate position to argue from and can be dismissed, just like the others.

  • Pisk_A_Dausen

    Agreed, but the claim in the original post wasn’t about whether there were any arguments against gay marriage that couldn’t be dismissed (I’ve yet to see any), it was about whether there were any secular arguments against it. The person who made this argument stayed opposed to gay marriage even after admitting that what xe really wanted was no tax relief for childless couples.

  • eonL5

    Since it’s all that some will understand and base their vote on, I hope Washingtonians for marriage equality will stress over and over that many churches DO say that same-sex marriage is ok and DO wish to marry same-sex couples. Therefore, it is an issue of religious freedom to allow it.

    In a nutshell, not allowing the marriages is taking away religious freedom, not protecting it. Though, as we well know, the marriage rights being fought for are not the religious marriages but the ones you fill out forms for at city hall.

  • julie

    We see incest as a taboo because it produces unhealthy, impaired children. If we were ever to let close relatives marry, I think they would have to be sterilized first.

  • Rwlawoffice

    This is the worst argument for same sex marriage yet. Every where else supporters of same sex marriage argue this is a secular issue and religion had nothing to do with the state sanction of homosexual marriage. Now you want to argue its a religious issue? Please explain which religion has as part of its theology that it will only perform marriages that the state approves?

  • M J Shepherd

    Point well taken, then.

  • Patrick Orlob

     I think you’ll find that “traditional” mariage, exclusively one-man-one-woman entering a bond of love, really isn’t as traditional as you believe.

    Personally, I think you’re right that the state should get out of the marriage business all together, but it’s irrelevent: so long as the state DOES sanction marriage, it should not do so in a discriminatory fashion. I don’t see what’s so difficult about this.

  • NoDoubtAboutIt

    Gee, I thought you were a big supporter of religious freedom.  Why do you want to deny Christian churches the right to perform marriages for all of their members, not just the ones anti-American goons like you approve of?

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Yikes! Thanks for catching that. Fixed the link above. Here it is again:

  • ErickaMJohnson

    That lawsuit was thrown out by a judge. They can appeal but it’s not clear if they will.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Fallacious arguments aren’t reasonable. Yes, I likely should have written reasonable reasons or logical reasons but I felt that was implied. 

  • ErickaMJohnson

    Marriage does mean something. It means the union of two loving and committed people who have chosen to walk through life together. Allowing same-sex couples to marry does not change that definition, it simply increased the number of people who can strengthen their families through marriage.

  • Arthur Byrne

    Actually, the relation between “icky” and “religious” may be a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. You might look into the work of Haidt on moral intuitions, particularly disgust.

    That said, the potential relation and the apparent subjectivity make “icky” seem to fall short of the usual measures of “secular reason”.

  • Pisk_A_Dausen

    If you think secular = reasonable, you have way more faith in people than me. :-p

  • ErickaMJohnson

    That’s not what I suggested. I’m saying reasonable = reason.

  • Ibis3

    There is a slightly greater chance of genetic problems resulting from an incestuous union, but not more than the risk from a single parent having some other known conditions and we don’t ban them from marriage or force carriers to be sterilized.

  • Rwlawoffice

    I am a big supporter of religious freedoms. So tell me which religion bases its theology on only performing weddings that are approved of by the state?.  I understand the desire to try and steal this issue from the religious opposition to homosexual marriage, but it simply doesn’t work. 

  • julie

    Yes, but it’s much more preventable. Most people don’t realize they’re carriers of serious genetic diseases until they have a child with that disease. I think it’s a pretty horrible thing to breed if you know there’s a high likelyhood of your child being unhealthy. I would never seriously advocate sterilizing people, but it’s wishful thinking…

  • NoDoubtAboutIt

    If you are a big supporter of religious freedoms, then surely you must be a supporter of allowing those Christian churches that do, in fact, support marriage equality to perform legally valid marriages for all of their members, not just the opposite sex couples.  Or would you prefer to have the government deciding which Christians are the “real” Christians?

  • James Hotelling

    The donation page asks me to fill out employment information, which just gives me a general squicky feeling. Is there a requirement that they ask that, like for state non-profit status or something, or is it just general demographic/market research?

  • Stev84

    There is a hypothesis called the Westermarck effect.

    It proposes a kind of reverse sexual imprinting among children raised together to explain why they are rarely attracted to each other. This was found in relatively isolated groups that raise their children in communal settings (like the Israeli kibbutz system). Turns out few of them partner with each other.

    Anedotally, many of the people who tried to make a legal case of incest were separated at birth and found each other later. So it seems that non-abusal incest is a very rare thing in any case. Taboo or not.

  • Sven

    How would same-sex marriage “destroy” marriage?  If you’re pro-marriage, wouldn’t you want to ENCOURAGE stable monogamous relationships?  Wouldn’t you want to ENCOURAGE the financial stability of marriage?  Wouldn’t you want to DISCOURAGE promiscuity?  Wouldn’t you want to DISCOURAGE the spread of STDs?
    Also, what do you think “Marxist” means?  It seems to be Conservative-speak for ‘something I don’t like’.

  • Rebecca Friedman

    The information is required by Washington State law for contributions to political campaigns.  WU4M is not a non-profit.  Many of the non-profit coalition members have funds that you can contribute to, and that money goes to the org’s routine work outside the campaign.  Equal Rights Washington Educational Fund is a good place to start, and they are friendly toward nontheists.