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June 6, 2006

Eyman Fails, Ticks Off the Churches

Posted by David Postman at 5:41 PM


Tim Eyman's failure to collect enough signatures to force a public vote on Washington's gay rights law has had one impact, and could have another. We'll see if this cements the law for a time, now that the state's initiative maven and a coalition of powerful churches failed to convince enough people that the new law should be repealed.

But the failure already has created a serious rift between Eyman and the churches and social conservatives who were banking on him to do the mechanics of their anti-gay rights efforts. Eyman has not had much luck with social issues. His first initiative was the anti-affirmative action I-200, which after his failed leadership was successfully pushed by talk show host John Carlson, himself a successful initiative sponsor.

Eyman announced the number of signatures he collected for Referendum 65 this afternoon with great drama. He did some math, shook his head, he sighed some big sighs and said oh so slowly: "We'd like to announce ... that ... we have successfully ... gathered ... 105,103 signatures for the Referendum 65 campaign."

He needed 112,440 valid signatures of registered voters.

Watching the event from just outside the scrum of reporters was Gary Randall, president of the Faith and Freedom Network, and his field director, John Russell. The group was one of the conservative Christian organizations that were working with Eyman to collect signatures at churches.

"This is the first number we've heard," Russell said, as Eyman made a celebration out of his defeat, sipping sparking cider from paper cups with his co-sponsors, Mike and Jack Fagan, and saying that the signature drive was "an enormously positive accomplishment."

Not for the Christians and social conservatives. Randall said that a "high percentage of the resources" his group spent in the last three months went to collecting signatures. But, Randall said, they were kept in the dark.

Eyman picked up some petitions from the churches. Others were sent directly to the secretary of state's office, which Eyman also collected prior to today. Randall said there was an evolution of answers when Eyman was pressed for information on the progress of the petition drive.

"At first he said, 'I don't tell anyone, that's part of my method,' and then he said later, 'I don't really know. I'm purposely keeping myself out of the loop,' or something to that effect. And then he didn't return calls."

Eyman's partners wore T-shirts promoting a tax-cutting initiative they're pushing this year. Randall said there have been questions about whether Eyman was using the anti-gay rights measure as a way to promote the tax-cut initiative. Yesterday, when Eyman duped reporters into coming to a news conference, he and the Fagans talked more about the tax initiative than they did about the gay-rights referendum.

If the churches try again to repeal the gay-rights law they'll do it without Eyman, Randall said.

Before Eyman's announcement, Randall was worried about what would happen. Not so much that Eyman would fall short, but that he would embarrass the effort. When a helicopter flew over, Randall worried Eyman might skydive into the press conference. He thought Eyman might come in costume. "I just prayed it wouldn't be worse than Darth Vader today." Eyman dressed as the Star Wars character at yesterday's news conference.

And it was not lost on Randall that today is the day that carries the mark of the beast, and he was left wishing the deadline for signatures happened either Monday or Wednesday:

"My life has been as a pastor and a theologian and I do believe in 666 and I do believe in the Bible and I don't know what it has to do with today, probably nothing. But in this case I have no idea. But I wish it would have been yesterday or tomorrow."

I'd like to hear what people on both sides of this issue think will happen now. Will there be another effort next year? Is there something to be done by supporters of the gay-rights bill to publicize what it does and does not really mean?

This is among the most passionate issues, so please let's keep the tone of the comments as civil as they've generally been so far.

ADD:

The gay rights bill becomes law tomorrow. Here's what Gov. Gregoire said in a statement:

"Tomorrow will be a proud day in Washington. In January, Washington took an affirmative stand to say to gay and lesbian individuals, moms and dads, sons and daughters, neighbors, co-workers and friends that, like all other people, they are free to work in an environment absent discrimination. Tomorrow our words become law."

Here's what some others are saying:

Horsesass, the original anti-Eyman

The Stranger answers the Prayer Warrior UPDATE, and has the answer to this question that Randall said he didn't want to be asked:

If the members of the religious right in Washington can't be bothered to sign a petition when they're told that signing will help prevent gay marriage from being legalized here, why should legislators be so worried about backlash from people of faith if they come out in favor of gay marriage?

Orbusmax links back to me, but boy the Orb's headline is Drudge-licious!

The Spokesman Review's Eye on Olympia

Thurston Pundits did a Monday post worth reading but I haven't seen an update yet.

Here's the statement from Barbara Green, executive director of Equal Rights Washington, which opposed Eyman's referendum.


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