After 23 days of signature counting,
Washington State election officials announced Monday that a
referendum on a gay-inclusive domestic partnership law has qualified
for the November ballot. Voters will decide the fate of the gay
partner law dubbed the “everything but marriage” law by the
Officials said Referendum 71 qualified
by possibly the narrowest margin ever, with only 1,040 signatures to
spare, as of Monday.
The anti-gay marriage group Protect
Marriage Washington submitted nearly 138,000 signatures on July 25,
which placed on hold the gay partner law that was scheduled to begin
the next day. The law will only go into effect if voters approve
Referendum 71 on November 3.
The law would extend a 2007 domestic
partnership law for a second time, granting gay and lesbian couples
all the remaining state-provided rights, benefits and
responsibilities of marriage.
Last week, the pro-gay group Washington
Families Standing Together sued to have the referendum blocked from
the ballot, at least temporarily. The group alleges that Secretary
of State Sam Reed has accepted thousands of “defective petitions”
and signatures of people who were not registered voters at the time
they signed the petitions.
Election officials say they are
following the advice of Attorney General Rob McKenna, who in a 2006
opinion said a declaration printed on the back of petitions does not
need to be signed.
“Based on what the Attorney General's
opinion says,” Nick Handy, state elections director, explained in a
blog post, “if the declaration is not printed on the back of the
petitions, our office will reject the petition sheets. Under the
Attorney General's opinion, the declaration does not have to be
signed. If it is not signed, our office will not reject the petition
sheets. Since 2006, we have consistently advised all initiatives and
referendum sponsors that they do not have to submit signed
declarations on the back. They do have to submit petition sheets
with the declaration printed on the back.”
Plaintiffs disagree, arguing the 2005
law requires a signed declaration.
King County Superior Court Judge Julie
Spector said Monday that she will rule on the matter Wednesday
Supporters of putting the law up for a
vote say they oppose the gay partner law because it redefines
“We're not trying to keep anyone from
having anything, we're simply trying to keep marriage from being
redefined,” Gary Randall of Protect Washington Families, a group
that supports putting the issue to a vote, told the Seattle Times.
“The wrong side of the issue is to redefine marriage.”