Supporters of a gay-inclusive domestic
partnership law in Washington State suffered another setback on
Tuesday as a Thurston County Superior Court judge rejected their
effort to block a vote on the law, the AP reported.
Washington Families Standing Together,
a gay rights group, is challenging the validity of thousands of
signatures accepted by Secretary of State Sam Reed towards Referendum
71, the ballot measure that puts the “everything but marriage”
law up for a vote. With only 1,200 signatures to spare, the
referendum barely managed to qualify. (1,200 is the latest tally
offered by election officials on Tuesday.)
The group says about 35,000 voter
signatures should be tossed because either the declaration on some
petitions were submitted unsigned or signatures of people who were
not registered at the time they signed the petitions were included.
After about 50 minutes of oral
arguments, Judge Thomas McPhee disagreed with petitioners.
He said that the declaration that says
that the signature gatherer personally collected the signatures must
appear on the petition but state law “does not require that the
declaration be completed or signed by a signature gatherer.”
And McPhee agreed with election
officials who allowed signatures of people who registered to vote
after signing the petition to be included, saying state law doesn't
require a date of signature, therefore it would not be possible to
know if a voter was not registered when they signed the petition.
The ruling contradicts last week's King
County Superior Court ruling that said an unsigned declaration
“essentially renders the declaration meaningless.” Judge Julie
Spector also rejected plaintiffs' motion on a technicality.
a Washblog blog post Tuesday, gay rights activist Lurleen
disagreed with McPhee's assessment on voter registration dates.
“Signature gatherers who collect
voter registration cards are required by law to turn them in to the
state within 5 days. With a petition deadline of July 25th,
this means that the latest registration date that should have been
acceptable was July 30th. Yet the secretary of state was
accepting any signature from a voter registered as late as the last
day of checking, September 2nd, a full month in excess of
constitutional limits,” she said.
Petitioners said they were uncertain if
they would appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Submission of the petition on July 25
put the “everything but marriage” law on hold until after the
November election. If approved by voters, 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.