Just days after Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed marriage equality into law a referendum measure has been filed with the Attorney General’s office to begin the process of putting marriage equality to a public vote.
Dubbed Referendum 74, the question put before voters will be the text of the bill which they must then approve for the law to go into effect. More on ballot procedure via The Washington Office of the Secretary of State’s blog:
The referendum places the text of the bill before them. An affirmative vote is to uphold the law as it passed the Legislature and was signed by the governor. A vote to reject wipes out the measure and it does not take effect. As with the 2009 vote on Referendum 71, the “everything but marriage” law, the sponsors who mount the effort to get the measure on the ballot will be asking for a “reject” vote on their referendum. Bottom line: a vote to “approve” upholds the new law, a vote to “reject” abolishes the bill.
Marriage equality opponents must gather a minimum of 120,577 signatures, or 4 percent of all votes cast in the 2008 election for governor, though a figure of 150, 000 is recommended in order to cover invalid or duplicated signatures.
Opponents have until June 6 to gather the requisite number of signatures or Washington’s marriage equality law will come into effect the proceeding day, June 7.
The submission of amassed signatures will suspend the law — that is, prevent it from coming into effect — until after the signature check.
If the requisite number of signatures have been collected, the suspension of the law continues until the result of the November referendum is posted.
It may be worth noting that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that petition signatures can be released to the public, and therefore anti-marriage equality groups will not be able to shield signatories. This ruling came about due to a legal tussle concerning Washington’s 2009 referendum (Referendum 71) on expanding domestic partnerships. It will be interesting to see what, if any effect, this has on the signature gathering process.
A “Decline to Sign” campaign has been started to try and prevent the issue even reaching the ballot, with the website carrying this message: “By declining to sign, voters are saying that marriage equality is important enough that it should not be subject to vote, but put straight into law.”