Views clash at R-71 forum

Views clash at R-71 forum »Play Video
LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- The fight for gay rights in the state moved from the streets to a local college classroom on Monday night.

After a weekend of rallies in favor of Referendum 71, both sides got a chance to sound off at a panel discussion of the ballot measure.

The goal of the discussion at Edmonds Community College was to reach out to the undecided voter. But everyone who attended seemed to have their minds made up about Referendum 71.

Opposing sides pitched perspectives during a two-hour mental tug-of-war.

"Trying to speak to the silent swing voter, that 10 to 20 percent of people...or in this case, it's probably more like 13 percent who still have yet to make up their mind," said panel moderator D.J. Wilson.

Four panelists were present. Two were convinced Referendum 71 is a slippery slope. Claiming the "everything but marriage" bill is essentially marriage, they said they're hoping voters aren't lost in the semantics.

"The public doesn't understand. This is not just nice people versus mean people; this is a very real threat to religious liberty and for rights of conscience, an impact on what is taught in public schools," said Joe Backholm of Family Policy Institute of Washington.

But the other two panelists said if the bill is, in fact, a slippery slope, then Washington state should start sliding.

"I'm really asking voters to approve Referendum 71, so we can take care of each other just like any other family," said Joe Mirabella. "The desire to live with a mate for a lifetime is human, not just heterosexual."

About 100 people attended the panel discussion on Monday night, but the college hopes some 100,000 voters will watch it on its cable channel.