Preserve Marriage Washington (PMW) supporters are reporting increasing incidents of vandalism and harassment.According to Facebook pictures, videos, and media reports, PMW signs in Burien, Federal Way, Seattle, Issaquah, Vancouver, West Tacoma and Tri-Cities have been burned, spray painted, shredded and torn off vehicles. Preserve Marriage Washington is the group that submitted the necessary signatures on a petition to send Gov. Gregoire's Gay Marriage Bill to the ballot this election season.

The most notable incident occurred Oct. 16 in Burien when 61-year-old Arlene Mark, a Preserve Marriage volunteer, was in her car waiting for another volunteer outside a shopping center. An unidentified 23-year-old Burien man approached Mark's vehicle. According to reports from Q13 Fox Tacoma and The Examiner website:

[He] ran at Arlene’s car, hit it, and ripped a campaign sign off her vehicle. As he tore the sign, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it, he yelled, “This is what I think of your f*****g sign! I’m gay and proud of it.” He shouted vulgar profanities at Arlene, calling her a “b***” and screaming “f**k you!”

Burien police arrested the man the following Wednesday on allegations of committing a hate crime. No further details have been released about charges against the man or his identity. He was arrested because a 36-year-old woman, Nikki Davis, who was not a PMW volunteer, came to the aid of the elderly woman. The man allegedly shoved and assaulted Davis, who is pregnant.

Supporters of R-74 claimed it was a "cynical political tactic to garner sympathetic support for traditional marriage." PMW has also claimed additional threats have been posted on their Facebook page.

Tri-Cities was included in the vandalism reports. While Newstalk 870 could not find any television or newspaper stories on such vandalism, KIMA TV in Yakima did report sexually explicit pictures were taped to R-74 signs around the city. The report did not specify if the signs opposed or supported R-74.

Washington United For Marriage (supporters of R-74 who support the Gay Marriage Bill passed by the Washington State Legislature) issued a statement condemning the man's actions, but followed that up by saying (as posted above) it was part of a ploy to garner support for traditional marriage.

The statement read as follows:

We condemn any act of this sort and we have been explicit with our supporters -- we respect everyone, no matter where they stand on Referendum 74. In fact, we sent an email to our entire list in early September calling for respect and restraint, and another to our staff.

Having said that, this sort of claim is, sadly, a well-worn, cynical political tactic by the National Organization of Marriage (NOM) that began in California in 2008 and has been regularly trotted out ever since. They have neatly turned the basic argument -- that they and their supporters are subject to harassment -- into a near constant lament in the final weeks of these campaigns.

Whichever side you support in this issue, it is but one of a number of issues that have made 2012 one of the most contentious in our state's -- and nation's -- history.