Same-Sex Marriage Mailers Raise Some Eyebrows

Oct 16, 2012

Some senior citizens in Washington recently got a flyer in the mail from same-sex marriage supporters. It says approval of Referendum 74 will preserve domestic partnerships for seniors. Gay marriage opponents call the ad a misleading scare tactic.

The campaign backing same-sex marriage paid for the mailer. It’s targeting seniors because Referendum 74 touches on domestic partnerships between straight couples who are are 62 or older and living 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, which opposes gay marriage. He says the ad is misleading because it suggests the referendum threatens domestic partnerships for seniors.

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

The mailer starts with a paragraph about the threat to senior benefits. Then it goes on to say approval of Referendum 74 will preserve the domestic partnerships. It suggests the two are tied together.

That’s not exactly 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, with Washington United for Marriage, says the alarm already existed. The mailer aims to put seniors at ease.

"We’d actually picked up...that seniors were concerned (about) what would happen with domestic partnerships," Silk said. "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.