As the effort to place a gay-inclusive
domestic partnership up for a vote in Washington State ticks down its
final hours, supporters of Referendum 71 are making a final push to
pull out a victory.
But whether they can come from behind
Officials behind the campaign said in a
statement Friday, the final day of signature collecting, that they
will have the minimum 120,577 petition signatures needed to qualify
for the ballot. Proponents – a coalition of mostly religious
groups – admitted they have failed to collect the additional 30,000
signatures needed to guard against errors, including instances of
unregistered or unqualified voters.
The deadline to turn in the petitions
is Saturday at 2PM. Gay Randall, president of the Faith and Freedom
network, said he was asking supporters to gather additional
signatures and drive them to the state Capitol.
“We think there's a good chance that
we will qualify,” Randall told the Seattle Times Friday.
The Democratic-controlled House passed
the bill dubbed the “everything but marriage” bill by the media
in April along a mostly party-line vote of 62 to 35. Senators
approved the bill in March with a 30 to 18 vote, and Governor Chris
Gregoire signed the bill into law on May 18.
The law, sponsored by openly gay
Seattle Democrats Senator Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen, expands
existing domestic partnership legislation to grant gay and lesbian
couples all the rights and benefits that the state offers married
heterosexual couples. The federal government, however, does not
recognize gay unions or marriages.
Washington State banned gay marriage in
1998 and the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the
constitutionality of the law in 2006.
If the measure qualifies for the
ballot, the law would be delayed until after the results of the
November election are known. The law is set to take effect on
Meanwhile, gay rights groups say the
referendum threat has accelerated the growth of pro-gay marriage
groups in Washington State. And the group WhoSigned.org
announced it would publish the names of signers to the petition on
the Internet should it qualify. (Similar postings have proven
controversial in other states, including California, Arkansas and