Gay rights foes ready petition

Backers of a gay-rights repeal measure say it’s “too close to call” on filing signatures by today’s deadline for qualifying Referendum 71 for the Nov. 3 ballot.

The Faith and Freedom PAC said in an e-mail Friday that activists hoped to meet the minimum 120,577-signature requirement. But “we do not have an adequate cushion of signatures” to cover those likely to be deemed invalid, the e-mail added.

“We do plan to turn in the signatures and we do feel we will have a cushion,” Gary Randall, leader of the Faith and Freedom Network, added in a second e-mail Friday.

The group has a 2 p.m. appointment at the Office of the Secretary of State. The Washington Families Standing Together group backed by gay-rights activists has assembled a coalition of more than 100 groups to advocate a yes vote on the measure, if it goes onto the ballot; otherwise the Senate Bill 5688 takes effect Sunday.

SB 5688 expanded the state’s 2-year-old domestic partnership registry by adding the last of 450 state-level rights for registered couples, which include same-sex couples and opposite couples with at least one partner age 62.

Some of the rights deal with pension benefits, death benefits, sick leave and adoption of a partner’s child, but the referendum does not address the more than 1,000 federal rights of married couples.

Three other referenda were proposed and failed. One was withdrawn. Another, R-72, dealt with requirements for fire-district annexations but fell short, its sponsor Jerry Galland said. He has a court challenge pending against SB 5808, which takes effect Sunday.

Lastly, R-70 failed to get more than 300 signatures, said sponsor David Anderson. R-70 challenged SB 5599, which puts Washington into a compact with states that award their Electoral College votes to whichever presidential candidate captures the national popular vote. The compact does not take effect until a majority of electoral votes are in the compact.

“I think like the Legislature, people are pretty distracted by the economy,” Anderson said Friday.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688