Wednesday, September 9, 2009

WA Judge Refuses to Block Referendum 71

PFLAG has been following the activity surrounding the Washington domestic partner law, one of the highest-profile LGBT issues coming before voters this fall. A few weeks ago we reported that Referendum 71 (R-71), the measure that seeks to repeal the domestic partner laws, made it to the ballot by virtue of the required signatures collected by the opposition group.

From yesterday's Washington Post [free subscription required] comes news that a judge has refused to block the proposed ballot initiative.

The lawsuit seeking to halt the vote was filed by Washington Families Standing Together, a gay-rights group that is trying to prevent this measure from making it onto the ballot. It claims Secretary of State Sam Reed improperly accepted thousands of petition signatures that supported putting R-71 on the ballot.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee rejected those arguments.

Washington Families Standing Together's previous attempt to block R-71 was turned away last week in King County for technical reasons. But King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector said she was concerned that Reed may have accepted tens of thousands of invalid signatures.

Reed certified R-71 for the November ballot last week. Election officials revised the number of accepted signatures downward Tuesday, after an audit showed some signatures had been incorrectly accepted.

The latest official tally of accepted petition signatures for R-71 was 121,780 - about 1,200 more than the minimum required to qualify for the ballot.

A separate federal lawsuit brought by R-71's sponsors is seeking to keep those signed referendum petitions secret.

The petitions are considered public records under state law, but R-71's sponsors claim that petition-signers could face harassment by political opponents if the names are released. U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle is expected to rule on that matter this week.

The domestic partnership expansion in Washington was scheduled to take effect on July 26, but the referendum campaign put it on hold. If the referendum does appear on the ballot, the law would take effect only if approved by voters November 3.

Stay tuned. We will keep you updated as this story develops.

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