Sporting goods and camping retailer Recreational Equipment Inc., REI, has endorsed gay marriage and in particular Referendum 74, the ballot question which will ask Washington state voters in November to either uphold or overturn a gay marriage law approved by lawmakers.

“REI is taking a position in support of marriage equality – an issue that is important to the co-op as an inclusive organization and a welcoming place to work and do business,” REI President Sally Jewell said in a statement.

“Why is this important to the co-op? Let me begin my answer with a personal perspective. A few weeks ago, my husband Warren and I celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary. We've been on a journey through life together since our first date on my 18th birthday, raising our two children, changing jobs, moving to various places, and witnessing the challenges and joys of our relationship and those of our parents, three of them through end-of-life.”

“For heterosexual couples, it is very easy to take for granted the legal and societal benefits of marriage – health care benefits, retirement benefits, insurance, death benefits, healthcare decisions, child-rearing and custody, and many more, not to mention the meaning of the commitment of marriage that was so vivid to us as we introduced each other as husband or wife for the first time. As executrix of my mother's estate, the legal benefits of marriage in estate and health issues became even clearer to me over the past year. Marriage equality is important to the co-op because the benefits, legal clarity and societal understanding that Warren and I have enjoyed these past 34 years should be available to any two people who want to express their love and make a permanent commitment to each other that is so clearly provided for in the legal definition of marriage.”

The Kent-based retailer maintains 110 stores in about 30 states.