Sponsors of a campaign to overturn the state’s recent “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law turned in their petition signatures Saturday and said they believe they have enough to force a public vote.
The signatures for Referendum 71 were turned in to the Washington state Secretary of State’s Office Saturday afternoon. The new expanded domestic partnership law was scheduled to take effect today, but is delayed until the signatures can be counted.
To qualify for the November ballot, they must have 120,577 valid voter signatures, and election officials have suggested that referendum sponsors turn in about 150,000 as a buffer.
If they have enough signatures, the law will be delayed until the outcome of the election.
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The signatures were turned in a day after opponents of the new law announced a final push to force a public vote, calling their effort so far “too close to call.”
“We feel OK,” said R-71 organizer Gary Randall. Randall said at least 135,000 signatures were submitted, and more signatures were expected to be turned in before the 5 p.m. deadline.
The process of counting and verifying them begins next week, and verification could go until the last week of August, said Brian Zylstra, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.
If they don’t have enough signatures, the domestic partnership expansion will immediately take effect. If the measure does qualify, voters will be asked to either approve or reject the new law.
Josh Friedes, a spokesman for Washington Families Standing Together, said that if the referendum does end up on the ballot, he is optimistic that voters will retain the law.
“We do not believe that the mere qualification of the referendum is a barometer of public opinion on the subject of protecting gay and lesbian families,” he said.
The new domestic partnership law expands on Washington’s existing partnerships. The newest version adds registered domestic partners to all remaining areas of state law that presently apply only to married couples. Those statutes range from adoption and child support rights and obligations, to pensions and other public employee benefits.
The referendum wouldn’t overturn the underlying domestic partnership and its first expansion.
But it would roll back the additional rights granted this year.
As of this week, more than 5,700 domestic partnership registrations had been filed in Washington since the first law took effect in July 2007.
A political group called WhoSigned.Org has already said it will publish online the names of people who signed petitions for the referendum.