As for most Americans, the Fourth of July means more to me than a good barbecue and cold brews. It's a time for family and friends to kick back, enjoy one another and welcome the summer ahead.
It's also a time to reflect on exactly what freedom and independence means, especially here in Washington State. Earlier this year, the Washington State Legislature recently passed a law, with bi-partisan support, that upholds these fundamental rights by allowing every Washington citizen the right to marry the person he or she loves. Those very principles are being challenged by those who want to take away the freedom to marry for our gay and lesbian family members, friends and neighbors.
Earlier this month, those determined to overturn the Washington State Marriage Equality Act delivered their signatures to the Secretary of State's office to place Referendum 74 on the ballot this November.
This is not a surprise. We knew this would happen. Still, it's important for voters to remember that this was a law that passed with a bi-partisan coalition because people on both sides of the aisle came together in support of fundamental fairness, equality and personal freedom for everyone. I was part of that coalition as one of the first Republicans to sponsor the bill because I believe it was the right thing to do for Washington state.
For me, this is also a question of governmental interference. As a Republican, I believe one of the key tenets of governance is a fundamental belief in personal freedom and individual responsibility. People understand this point when asked about marriage in this way: Would you like the government telling you whom you could or could not marry? I wouldn't and can't imagine why anyone would. And that is really what this law is all about -- giving individuals; friends, neighbors, family members, co-workers -- the freedom and responsibility to marry the person they choose; to have a family with the person they choose without interference from the government.
I have been married for over 23 years to the love of my life. My wife and I have four amazing children. I am one of the lucky ones. My mother always told me that the single most important decision you will ever make in your life is who you marry. She was right. It is the person you marry, not the color of their skin, not their religion, and now, not his or her gender.
The next generation inherently understands this. What I thought might be a lengthy discussion about marriage equality with my children during the legislative debate quickly whittled down to, "What's the big deal?" My 16-year-old daughter quoted the Declaration of Independence "pursuit of happiness" guarantee and then asked for the car keys. For them and their friends, this is a no brainer.
Marriage promotes responsibility, commitment and stability; family values that we all believe are important. Taking away freedoms by overturning our bipartisan marriage law, doesn't hold up to the Washington values I hold dear and hope to pass down to my children.
That's why I'll be working to "approve" Referendum 74. I believe that my gay and lesbian friends, neighbors and co-workers deserve the same freedom and opportunity to pursue happiness, to marry the person they love and to have that special union recognized by the state of Washington.
Steve Litzow is a Republican State Senator representing parts of King County.