Bellingham is where we fell in love.
We met as students here at Western Washington University. The world was our oyster. We saw it as travelers and teachers, but eventually decided to come back home, get married and start a family together. We chose to settle in Bellingham because the people are so supportive of independent retailers, the outdoors and the environment. More importantly, people really value community here and doing the right thing for one another.
It's with those values in mind that we're now urging our friends and neighbors to join us in voting to approve Referendum 74.
We're welcoming our first child into the world this fall. And, as residents of Washington State, and Bellingham, we want to raise our child in a community where marriage is recognized as a loving commitment between two people, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation.
And marriage is much more than domestic partnerships and civil unions, especially in the way it ensures by law the ability to take care of and protect one other and your family. That is why we want all couples who dream of a life together to be able to make the ultimate commitment of marriage.
Our own marriage gave us the support and confidence we needed to start Left Right Left, Digs, and now, a family.
When we started Digs in 2008, we were trying to bring a little bit of international design and city living to downtown. While we knew it reflected our taste, we didn't know how it would be received in the community. We were surprised. The community embraced the new store and it's since become a hub of design and home living that reflects the environment around it.
In large part, our success reflects how Bellingham and Whatcom County - with a large university and increasingly diverse population - are open and welcoming to everyone. In fact, that's the foundation of a strong local economy: the "knowledge workers" that growing companies seek in today's job market are looking to settle in communities like ours. They'll see we're less than two hours from Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.; and we offer everything those big cities do, along with a pace and cost of living that's more accessible to young couples. They'll see, has we have, that this is the perfect place to raise a family -- any kind of family, gay or straight.
We're looking forward to teaching our child the value of marriage, family and loving commitment to one another. As Bellingham continues to grow and attract more people and business, it's important that we continue to support the family structure by giving all loving couples the choice to get married. It's also important to us that the community we live in reflects and supports that as well. Approving Referendum 74 means that our child will learn marriage is about loving couples building a life and family together, as we have been able to with each other.
We have heard opponents of Referendum 74 suggesting small businesses like ours could be sued if Referendum 74 passes and they refuse to do business with same-sex couples. That's simply not true. Referendum 74 doesn't change existing anti-discrimination laws, which already prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation.
We hope that this fall, our fellow local retailers and business owners, young couples and new parents in Bellingham and around the state stand with us in support of love, commitment and marriage and vote "approve" on Referendum 74.
Ben and Gretchen Knudsen own Left Right Left and Digs retail stores in Bellingham.