Court battle continues to keep R-71 off Washington’s November ballot

Referendum 71Supporters of Washington’s “everything but marriage” gay partnerships are continuing their court battle over Referendum 71.

R-71’s conservative sponsors have collected enough petitions to force a vote on the latest expansion of domestic partnership rights, but gay-rights activists say that state election officials accepted thousands of improper signatures, and filed a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court, seeking to block Referendum 71 from the ballot.

Washington Families Standing Together and Anne Levinson, its chairwoman, filed the lawsuit Thursday against both Secretary of State Sam Reed and Protect Marriage Washington, a group that opposes the expanded benefits.

The group also contends Protect Marriage used deceptive practices to get people who actually support the expanded benefits into signing R-71 petitions, and that the petitions themselves included false information.

The measure was also being discussed in federal court Thursday. Referendum sponsors say their signed petitions should not be released to the public, because people who signed could face harassment.

Washington Families had brought up similar concerns in a case it filed last week in King County Superior Court. On Wednesday, a King County judge acknowledged those concerns but said state law doesn’t require the secretary of state to reject the questionable signatures, and that any challenges to the referendum would have to be filed in Thurston County.

Gary Randall with Protect Marriage Washington said that, as far as he knew, deceptive practices were not used to gather signatures.

The secretary of state’s office ruled Monday that the referendum had 121,486 valid voter signatures, nearly a thousand more than needed to make the ballot.

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