Referendum 74 is the new number for Washington’s gay marriage challenge filed by opponents of the new marriage law signed by the governor on Monday. It turns out that R-73 was assigned last spring to a campaign challenging last year’s medical marijuana law; nothing came of that effort.
The marriage referendum has been transmitted to the state Attorney General’s Office for preparation of a ballot title, 30-word concise description, a 75-word-limit ballot summary, and a question that clearly defines the intent of the voter. The attorneys will have five days to produce these. After that, anyone dissatisfied with the ballot title/summary has five days to seek review by the Thurston County Superior Court, which is required to “expeditiously” handle the challenge(s) and render a decision within five days. The decision of the court is final.
It’s likely to be early March before R-74 sponsors can print and circulate petitions. Their deadline for turning in at least 120,577 valid signatures is June 6. That is one day before the new law, SB6239, ordinarily would have taken effect. The submission of signatures suspends the law from taking effect until after signature verification and, if qualified with enough valid signatures, until the election is conducted this fall and certified by Dec. 6.
The text of R-74 will be the text of the law.
If it makes the ballot, voters will decide whether to affirm or reject the new law.
Joseph Backholm pays the $5 filing fee as he files R-73 Monday afternoon.
Feb. 14 UPDATE: The referendum number has been changed to R-74.
Challengers of Washington’s newly signed gay-marriage bill have filed a referendum challenge. Less than four hours after Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law the bill authorizing civil marriage for same-sex couples, SB6239, Joseph Backholm of Preserve Marriage Washington filed Referendum 74 seeking to overturn the law.
Backholm, who has the backing of a number of in-state and national organizations, said it will be an expensive and hard-fought campaign, but that he expects to prevail.
“I don’t think it’s that hard of a case to make,” he told reporters at the Office of Secretary of State. “There are lots of meaningful relationships that are not called marriage. Marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman and the children they raise.”
Christopher Plante of the National Organization for Marriage, said each side will spend $2 million-$6 million getting their message out. Backholm said “I’m very confident.”
The referendum simply takes the exact language of the bill that the Legislature passed and Gregoire signed, and places it on the ballot. The voter’s choice will be to affirm the law or to reject it – so essentially the sponsors who are bringing the referendum forward will be asking for a “reject” vote on their own measure. Supporters of gay marriage will be asking for a vote to affirm the law.
Several hundred cheering partisans, and one heckler, crowded into the ornate State Reception Room for the governor’s bill-signing ceremony.
Sen. Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen, both Seattle Democrats from the 43rd District, the prime sponsors, spoke before Gregoire took the podium to loud cheers and the chant “Gregoire! Gregoire! Gregoire.” She was flanked by many of the legislators who voted for the measure during the past two weeks. Crowds lined the balconies and steps of the Rotunda, watching on closed-circuit TV. (more…)