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 media.

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 morning.

Supporters of putting the law up for a vote say they oppose the gay partner law because it redefines marriage.

“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.”