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News / Politics / Election

Ferguson blasts GOP opponent Reichert for remarks on same-sex marriage

By Claire Withycombe, The Seattle Times
Published: April 17, 2024, 7:36am

OLYMPIA — In the early stages of the race for governor, Democrat and front-runner Bob Ferguson is casting one of his opponents, Republican Dave Reichert, as too conservative for Washington, sharing a video of comments Reichert recently made about same-sex marriage.

In a campaign video Ferguson posted Tuesday on X, a clip of Reichert, a former congressman and King County sheriff, is shown speaking at a February event, saying that marriage is “between a man and a woman.”

“Dave Reichert may pretend to be a moderate, but behind closed doors with his MAGA supporters he reveals who he really is,” Ferguson said in the post.

Reichert’s values, he said in a statement, are “inconsistent with those of most Washingtonians.”

In a longer, nearly hourlong video of Reichert’s speech, reviewed by The Seattle Times after it was provided by the Ferguson campaign, Reichert goes on to say transgender men should not compete in women’s and girls’ sports.

In a statement of his own on Monday, Reichert said “every individual has the right to decide who they choose to marry.” A spokesperson said Reichert wouldn’t take steps as governor to restrict same-sex marriage.

“People have free will — it’s their body, their life, their belief system,” Reichert said. “I would put my life on the line, and have, to protect the rights of others and their freedoms. I don’t want to run anyone’s personal life, I’m just running to lead the Washington state government, to keep our communities safe, help our neighbors in need and bring businesses back to our state.”

“As far as transgender men competing in women’s athletics, people have different opinions,” Reichert’s statement continued. “I believe this is a women’s rights issue. To me, it’s all about fairness and we shouldn’t be depriving women of opportunities they have worked long and hard for and deserve.”

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Ferguson’s campaign is releasing a clip from the video as Ferguson, the state’s longtime attorney general, and Reichert are vying to replace Gov. Jay Inslee, who is not running for a fourth term.

Their other opponents include former Richland school board member Semi Bird and state Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah. Ferguson said in a January interview with The Seattle Times that he believed Reichert would be his opponent in the November general election.

The Ferguson campaign said they obtained the video of Reichert from a volunteer who was in a private Facebook group, called Washingtonians For Change, where the video was posted.

What Reichert says

In the video, Reichert is giving a speech, speaking for about 15 minutes on his life and professional background. He goes on to talk about issues including public safety and the criminal justice system, substance use and mental health, the economy and education, and then takes questions from the crowd.

An audience member, Dawn Land, stood up to ask a question.

“My question would be, how do you define a woman?” asked Land, who filed a referendum to repeal Senate Bill 5599, which was passed by the Legislature last year and exempts youth shelters and host homes from a requirement to contact parents within 72 hours if a child is seeking gender-affirming care, instead allowing them to contact the state Department of Children, Youth and Families. Land’s referendum measure failed.

Land then asked a few other questions about trans people, but did not ask him about same-sex marriage.

“No. 1, my wife is a woman and I’m a man,” Reichert says, to laughter in the audience. “You’re a woman and I’m a man. There’s only man and woman. I was raised as a Christian. And marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Next there is applause in the audience and Reichert continues: “Thank you. I don’t believe that transgender men should be competing against girls and women in sports ….as far as parental rights go, you’re right on in that initiative.” He said parents should know the medical advice their children are getting in school.

Land, reached by The Seattle Times on Monday, said she could not speak for Reichert, but that she does not believe he is opposed to the legal right for same-sex couples to marry.

“I don’t believe he’s homophobic,” she said.

Land says she is not opposed to people of the same sex being able to marry legally. As a Catholic, she says she does differentiate between the sacrament of marriage and the marriage that is recognized by the government.

Reichert’s campaign website emphasizes his career in law enforcement and says his policy priorities include addressing crime, the state’s high cost of living, boosting the economy and government accountability, as well as ensuring “safety and educational opportunities” for children.

“As Governor, my efforts will be focused on restoring the voices of all loving and caring parents to ensure your children receive the high-quality education they deserve, and you expect,” he states.

Ferguson has cited his work on LGBTQ rights as part of his campaign platform, including successfully arguing a consumer protection case against a Richland florist who refused to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding before the Washington Supreme Court.

Ferguson also said in a statement that he had “a long record of protecting the civil rights of transgender individuals in our state. Congressman Reichert denies their existence.”

Later this week, at their convention in Spokane, state Republicans are expected to vote on which Republican to endorse for governor. Reichert and Bird are facing off for the endorsement from their party. But the primary, when Washington voters will determine which two candidates head to the general election in November, isn’t until Aug. 6.

Shifting tides on same-sex marriage

In 2004, as a candidate for Congress in Washington’s 8th District, Reichert opposed same-sex marriage, The Seattle Times reported at the time.

Public opinion, and with it, the political tides on same-sex marriage have shifted significantly in the past couple of decades, with even prominent Democrats opposed in the early 2000s. While running for president in 2008, Barack Obama publicly opposed same-sex marriage, reversing his stance in 2012.

Reichert’s 2010 opponent for Congress, Democrat Suzan DelBene, who is now in Congress, supported equal rights for same-sex couples but not marriage, according to The Seattle Times coverage in 2009. But in 2012, when she was elected to her current position representing Washington’s 1st district seat after redistricting, she publicly supported same-sex marriage.

Reichert served in Congress from 2005 to 2019. In late 2010, Reichert voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which had barred gay and lesbian service members from serving openly in the U.S. military. Washington legalized same-sex marriage in 2012, and the U.S. Supreme Court legalized it nationwide in 2015.

Americans’ attitudes on the topic have shifted in the years since Reichert first ran for Congress, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2004, 60% of Americans opposed same-sex marriage and 31% supported. Fifteen years later, the proportions practically flipped, with 31% of Americans opposing and 61% supporting.

But Pew’s polling shows that the share of support for allowing couples of the same sex to marry differs between political party affiliation. As of 2019, 75% of Democrats and independents who leaned Democrat supported same-sex marriage, while 44% of Republicans and independents who leaned Republican did.

The video the campaign released on Tuesday also includes statements from several of Ferguson’s supporters.

“Dave Reichert’s words are not only outdated, but insulting to thousands of LGBTQ individuals and their families,” says Dontae Payne, the mayor of Olympia, in the Ferguson campaign’s video.

Payne is the first openly gay person appointed or elected to the position of mayor in the capital city, and is married, according to the city’s website.

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