Opponents of Washington’s new “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law are hoping to force a statewide public vote on the issue this fall.
Larry Stickney, Arlington, president of Washington Values Alliance (Web site here), filed a referendum at the state Elections Division in Oly on Monday. Sponsors will have until July 25 to gather 120,577 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 3 statewide ballot. Referendum 71 would allow voters to uphold the new law, Senate Bill 5688, or to reject it. Governor Gregoire has said she will sign the bill soon. It ordinarily would take effect July 26, but if referendum sponsors submit signatures, the new law will be suspended pending the signature verification and, if qualified, the vote in November. If voters uphold the law, it would take effect after the election is certified in December.
The bill extends to state-registered domestic partners the full list of benefits and responsibilities of married people. Lawmakers created a domestic partner registry within the Office of Secretary of State in 2007 for same-sex partners and for opposite-sex couples where at least one partner is 62 or older.
As of Monday afternoon, 5,324 couples were registered. There is no breakout of same-sex and opposite-sex couples. A look at the site here.
The referendum proposal was sent to the Attorney General’s Office, where a ballot title and description will be drafted during the next week. The ballot title can then be challenged in court. After that, sponsors can print petitions and go forth to seek signatures.