Opponents stop Washington state gay marriages

Washington’s gay marriage law was stopped from going into effect on June 6 as opponents filed more than 200,000 signatures taking the issue to a public vote in November.

The anti-marriage equality group Preserve Marriage Washington submitted the signatures just one day before the state was to start allowing gay marriages. Election officials will review the filings to determine whether the proposed Referendum 74 will qualify for a spot on the ballot, however, the numbers appear to suggest the measure will easily make the ballot.

The law was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year and would have made Washington the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriages. National groups are already involved in the fight, donating money and time to fight the law and Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage is leading the way. NOM led the battle to overturn marriage equality in California and Maine.

Washington state has had a domestic partnership law since 2007, and in 2009, the state passed an “everything but marriage” expansion of the law, which was upheld by voters after a referendum challenge. A recent poll by a Seattle consulting firm showed that 54 percent of voters think gay marriage should be legalized.

Marriage equality opponents will be facing uphill battles in upcoming elections as not only Washington voters face the referendum on marriage equality. Voters in Maine and Maryland will also be asked whether or not to legalize gay marriage.

The Maryland Legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage earlier this year, but much like Washington, opponents gathered signatures to bring the measure up for a referendum this fall.

Maine voters already overturned a bill legalizing gay marriage in 2009. But for the first time in the country, supporters of marriage equality have gone directly to voters without seeking legislative or judicial approval first and are seeking voter approval of marriage equality one more time. Recent polling data indicates increasing support for marriage equality around the country.

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