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Marriage equality opponents qualify for ballot referendum in Washington

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state will be one of three states to put marriage equality to a popular vote this November.

Election officials on Wednesday announced that a referendum that seeks to nullify Washington state’s recently passed law legalizing same-sex marriage has qualified for the November ballot.

The Secretary of State’s Office announced that Referendum 74, will ask voters to accept or reject the law that legalizes same-sex marriage — the law, signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire on Feb. 13, was passed by the state legislature earlier this year.

Last week, the group “Preserve Marriage Washington,” which seeks to overturn the law, submitted petitions containing 247,331 signatures, more than twice the minimum required to qualify it for the ballot.

Election staff conducted a 3 percent sample check totaling 7,561 signatures, with 6,877 being accepted.

Over the weekend, the secretary of state’s office said it identified 48 peititions containing nearly 1,000 fraudulent signatures, but that number was not enough to keep the referendum off the ballot.

Approval of Referendum 74 in November would uphold the marriage equality law and same-sex partners would be allowed to legally wed.

And while rejection of the measure would repeal the law, Peter Nicolas, law professor at the UW, said there’s nothing preventing the Legislature from bringing up the issue again in the next session.

Washington has had domestic partnership laws since 2007, and in 2009, passed an “everything but marriage” expansion of that law, which was ultimately upheld by voters after a referendum challenge.

Voters in Maryland, like those in Washington, will also vote in November on whether to overturn a law passed by the state’s legislature allowing same-sex marriage.

In Maine, voters will decide whether to begin allowing same-sex marriage. And in Minnesota, which already passed a law against gay marriage, voters will decide whether to enshrine a ban on it in the state’s constitution.

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