OLYMPIA, Wash. — The state of Washington has advised the Catholic diocese in Yakima, Wash., that its plans to conduct a special collection to benefit the campaign to defeat the state’s marriage equality law is illegal under the state’s campaign finance laws.
Last week, Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson sent a letter to pastors in 41 parishes of the Yakima Diocese asking them to announce a special collection that would go to “Preserve Marriage Washington,” the coalition fighting the same-sex marriage law that was passed earlier this year.
Opponents of the law have successfully targeted the measure with a voter referendum in November.
But Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, told LGBTQ Nation on Wednesday that the request is illegal under the terms of Initiative 134, which Washington voters passed ten years ago to regulate political contributions and campaign spending.
Anderson noted that state law specifically states that no organization, including churches, may act as an intermediary for contributions.
She said that churches are allowed hand out envelopes, but that either a member of Preserve Washington has to be on hand to collect them or parishioners must send them in individually.
Anderson said that the church has been notified by the commission.
Although the diocesan offices refused comment on the collection, planned for Sept. 8-9, a spokesperson did acknowledge that the Bishop also alerted parish priests that he has a “Pastoral Letter on Marriage” that he would like read in every parish.
Washington’s same-sex marriage law came under fire even before it was signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire in February when a group of bishops banded together and published a letter voicing their opposition to the bill. They argued that marriage should remain between a man and a woman because it is “related to bringing children into the world and the continuation of the human race.”
The church offered to use its parishes as signature-gathering centers for Preserve Marriage Washington’s campaign to place Referendum 74 to qualify the measure for the November ballot to put the new law up for a majority vote.
This latest effort by the Yakima Bishop comes as Preserve Marriage Washington acknowledged that it is trailing in fundraising efforts, raising just $471,000 compared with the nearly $6.1 million raised by Washington United for Marriage, the coalition which supports the same-sex marriage law.
Washington United for Marriage announced Monday that the group has set aside nearly $5 million for television advertising to commence after the Labor Day holiday.