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.

In 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.