By Peter J. Smith
OLYMPIA, Washington, November 6, 2009 ( – A pro-family referendum effort in Washington State to reject a domestic partnership law that gives homosexual couples all the rights and benefits of marriage without the name of “marriage” has ended in defeat. The cash-strapped effort came close, but not close enough to achieve victory at the ballot box in what has been described as a veritable “David and Goliath” contest.

The domestic partnership law had originally been passed by the state's legislature. But pro-family advocates managed to gather enough signatures to put the law to a popular vote. The ballot initative, R-71, if passed would ensure that the partnership law comes into effect.

The latest mail-in ballot results show Washington voters approving Referendum 71 by 52 percent (698,850 votes) to 48 percent (645,701), a lead that pro-family advocates concede would take nothing short of a statistical miracle to overcome.

Larry Stickney, campaign manager for Protect Marriage Washington, the umbrella group of pro-family organizations behind the Reject R-71 effort, told that they plan to wait it out for the rest of the afternoon (pacific time) to make fully certain of the result and then “probably at that point concede.”

“We have been in a slugfest against a well-oiled political machine that had $3 million to spend, and the entire statewide media and political establishment behind them,” Stickney said, “and our little rag-tad outfit stood them down pretty well and nearly beat 'em. So we feel pretty good about it.”

The Approve R-71 effort received huge corporate donations and endorsements from industry giants Microsoft and Google. Washington Families Standing Together, the chief coalition working to pass the pro-domestic partnership ballot initiative, received donations from groups such as Nike, Planned Parenthood, and T-Mobile, as well as donations from liberal institutions such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the homosexualist Human Rights Campaign.

The most recent data available from Washington State's public disclosure database shows the defeated pro-family effort was heavily out-funded, and therefore heavily outgunned in its advertizing efforts. The public database shows that Approve R-71 forces mustered over $2.12 million dollars to fund their advertizing efforts, while pro-family advocates could only gather about $480,000 to reach out to voters.

Demographics, however, also played a role in the R-71 battle. All the counties east of the Cascades voted overwhelmingly to reject R-71, while the more suburban counties gathered around Puget Sound voted for the referendum.

Critical to R-71's passage was King county, where Seattle is located. Over 249,486 voters (or 67.26%) in King county approved R-71, while 121,458 (or 32.74%) voted to reject it. With R-71 passing in Washington by just 50,000 votes, King county tipped the balance decisively in favor of R-71.

“We're very, very proud of the effort,” said Stickney. The Protect Marriage Washington coalition gathered thousands of volunteers and connected hundreds of pro-family leaders in conservative and Christian circles, establishing networks, mailing lists, and e-mail databases that will be critical to the next fight that will likely be over legalizing same-sex “marriage.”

“We think that we can now start to compete with the big bucks folks from Seattle on a grassroots level through the use of electronic media, which we've utilized heavily.”  

“I think we've proved we can take it right to them and run a genuine conservative issue, dish it out, and either win or be very close to winning,” said Stickney, confident that the battle for R-71 was the beginning and not the end for the Protect Marriage Washington coalition. “So we're going to continue to be a genuine Christian organization with a robust faith in God as well as our mission to change the state.”