Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ballot wording finalized for Referendum 74

3/13/12 8:48 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that a proposed referendum seeking to overturn a new law legalizing gay marriage in Washington will not contain the phrase "redefine marriage."

Judge Thomas McPhee was charged with finalizing language for the ballot title and summary of Referendum 74 after both sides of the debate challenged the original wording by Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna. McPhee's language is final and cannot be appealed.

Preserve Marriage Washington, which filed R-74, can now start circulating petitions to collect signatures. The law allowing gay marriage was signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire last month and takes effect June 7. However, if the backers of R-74 collect the more than 120,577 valid voter signatures needed by June 6, the law will be put on hold pending the outcome of a November vote.

Gay marriage supporters opposed the original ballot wording that described the new law as one that "would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry."

Washington United for Marriage, a coalition that supports the new law, said "redefine" is a loaded term and a talking point used by anti-gay marriage groups.

The Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage, which was involved in ballot measures that overturned same-sex marriage in California and Maine, has promised to work with Preserve Marriage Washington to qualify the referendum to overturn the new law.

Washington state 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.

Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Maryland legalized gay marriage this year as well, though opponents there are promising to challenge it with a ballot measure as well.

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