Preliminary, unofficial figures from the Washington state Elections Division shows that a sufficient number of signatures have been gathered to place on the ballot Referendum 71, a measure that would preserve the unique place of marriage by rescinding the state legislature’s expansion of homosexual domestic partnership benefits.
Protect Marriage Washington, which is sponsoring the proposal, submitted nearly 138,000 signatures on July 25. State checkers of the signatures accepted 121,617 signatures. According to David Ammons, writing on the blog of the Washington Secretary of State’s Office, 120,557 were required to secure a ballot spot.
The ballot proposal, known as Referendum 71, would overturn Senate Bill 5688, which passed the Washington legislature in April. The bill gave homosexual couples all the state-provided benefits that married couples receive.
The law was supposed to take effect July 26 but was delayed until the signature count was completed, the Associated Press says. The law will not take effect unless it is approved in the November 3 election.
In a news release on its website, the Washington State Catholic Conference said it opposed SB 5688 because proponents publicly stated that it was intended to extend existing marriage rights to same-sex couples “as a precursor to legalizing gay marriage in Washington State.”
“While opposing all unjust discrimination against any individual, WSCC upholds marriage as a union between a man and a woman, which is the foundation of our civil society,” the conference said.
The Washington Secretary of State’s Office claims that the margin of confirmed signatures for Referendum 71 may be the narrowest ever to qualify for the ballot. However, the number may rise if new voter registrations and missing electronic voter signatures are found.
Before the number of signatures was confirmed, Protect Marriage Washington had expressed concern about “statistical abnormalities” in the signature count. While the rate of erroneous signatures among the first 72,273 signatures counted stood at about 9.5 percent, among the last 6,922 signatures the error rate jumped to 12.8 percent.
Protect Marriage Washington also noted that Secretary of State Sam Reed’s executive secretary is the daughter of James Pharris, an attorney from the state Attorney General’s office assigned to defend the rights of Referendum 71 opponents.
Some opponents of Referendum 71 intend to adopt a tactic used by pro-homosexual groups in California to shame or boycott supporters of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that successfully defended marriage between a man and a woman. WhoSigned.org plans to publish the names of signatories to the Referendum 71 petitions following the signatures’ certification by the Washington Secretary of State.
Referendum 71 backers charged that the site could be used for retaliation and intimidation, pointing to the harassment that took place in California. A federal district court judge has temporarily blocked the signatures’ release, with a new hearing scheduled for September 3.
Opponents of Referendum 71 have filed a legal challenge to the referendum, which Superior Court Judge Julie Spector has taken under advisement. She said she will rule on the case on Wednesday morning.