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Washington gay marriage opponents launch drive to overturn law

Judge rejects 'redefine marriage' in ballot language
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
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Opponents of same-sex marriage began collecting signatures in Washington state on Wednesday in hopes of blocking the state’s new marriage equality law before it can go into effect this summer, just one day after a Superior Court judge cleared the way for opponents to begin the petition drive.

Judge Thomas McPhee issued his decision Tuesday in Thurston County Superior Court, and ruled that the language for the ballot title and summary of Referendum 74 would not contain the phrase “redefine marriage” if it makes it to the November ballot.

The Olympian reported that the “concise description” of the referendum would read:

“This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.”

The language of the ballot measure summary would be:

This bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender, and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnership are converted to marriages, except for seniors. It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies. The bill does not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement.

A vote to approve the referendum would be a vote in favor of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

McPhee’s ruling is considered a win more marriage equality advocates, who opposed the original ballot wording that described the new law as one that “would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry.”

The group Preserve Marriage Washington, a coalition that opposes same-sex marriage and filed R-74, hopes to collect 120,577 signatures by June 6 to place the ballot measure before voters in November seeking to repeal Washington’s law.

The law allowing same-sex marriage was signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire last month and takes effect June 7, but will be placed on hold pending the outcome of the November vote if Preserve Marriage Washington collects the required number of signatures to quality for the ballot.

Recent polling in Washington shows 50 percent of voters would uphold the marriage equality law, versus 46 percent who would vote to repeal.

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