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Framing the issue

Is there much doubt that had the Washington Legislature voted to allow same-sex marriage, and an initiative to overturn that law were attempted, that initiative would get on the ballot – easily?

Doesn’t seem as if there’s much doubt. Change the issue related to gays by a few degrees – make it a law that simply bans discrimination based on sexual orientation – and you’ve got a different matter. That created a political dynamic that Washington’s premier initiative organizer, Tim Eyman, couldn’t surmount. Late Tuesday afternoon he acknowledged that the effort to overturn by initiative a Washington Legislature bill establishing gay rights would not succeed.

These efforts seem to be reasonable markers of public sentiment, and of how the sentiment can change. Last year there was enough sentiment, at one point, to get the anti-gas tax initiative on the Washington ballot, but not enough to pass it. That suggests that, while there existed a serious base of criticism, that a significant majority in favor had come together. And some of that shift happened in between the petition stage and the voting stage. (A guess: The gay rights initiative would have made ballot status at least, 10 years ago.)

In the case of gay rights, the public sentiment seems to have coalesced earlier: If even a substantial base of critical sentiment had been there, Eyman should have been able to tap it. That suggests that had the measure got on the ballot, it would have gone down to huge defeat.

This initiative’s advocates, in licking their wounds today, might count themselves lucky.

ADDENDUM: And there was this notable comment about Eyman from former state GOP Chair Chris Vance: “Now he’s coming in and hijacking issues and shoving his way into an issue because it’s become a business for him. It’s how he gets paid. There will be no end to Tim Eyman as long as people are wiling to send him money … I think it’s hurting the legitimate perception of the initiative process. When you’ve got a clown out there in a Darth Vader suit lying to the press and things like that, it’s not good for the initiative and referendum process.”

To think that Eyman and the state Republicans were once so richly allied.

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