Two anti-gay referendums hit
certification on Wednesday.
In Maine, election officials made the
obvious official: Voters will decide the fate of a recently passed
gay marriage law. The certification came as no surprise considering
backers turned in nearly twice the number of signatures needed to
qualify for the ballot.
Maine became the fifth state to
legalize gay marriage on May 6, when Maine Governor John Baldacci
signed a gay marriage bill approved by lawmakers.
Passage put Baldacci, a Democrat who
had previously said he opposed gay marriage but remained buttoned up
as lawmakers debated the issue, in an uncomfortable position.
Opponents urged the governor to veto the bill, while proponents
pleaded for a signature.
Baldacci decided not to veto the bill.
Ironically, Baldacci also signed the formal proclamation that puts
the so-called “people's veto” on the November ballot.
“I fully support this legislation and
believe it guarantees that all Maine citizens are treated equally
under our state's civil marriage laws,” Baldacci said about the gay
marriage law. “But I also have a constitutional obligation to set
the date for the election once the secretary of state has certified
that enough signatures have been submitted.”
The nation's most vociferous opponent
of gay marriage, the National Organization for Marriage, and the
Catholic Diocese of Portland formed the Stand for Marriage Maine
coalition to push for repeal.
In Washington State, Secretary of State
Sam Reed certified Referendum 71 on Wednesday. The measure puts a
gay-inclusive domestic partnership law up for a vote.
The 23 days of signature counting
turned into a daily drama, with early statistics released by election
officials suggesting an unusually high error rate. The referendum
turned a corner when master checkers approved previously rejected
signatures. Referendum 71 qualified with possibly the narrowest
margin ever – only 1,270 signatures to spare – and one of the
lowest error rates ever, only 11.5 percent.
Decisions made by the secretary of
state – to accept unsigned declarations and voters who were not
registered at the time they signed the petition – have already
sparked a lawsuit aimed at blocking the referendum from reaching
the November ballot.
The “everything but marriage” law
being challenged extends a 2007 domestic partnership law for the
second time, granting gay and lesbian couples all the remaining
state-provided rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage.