Photo by Ernesto Benavides/AFP/Getty Images.
With one day to spare, gay-marriage opponents in Washington state turned in enough signatures on Wednesday to block the state's new law allowing gays and lesbians to wed from going into effect.
The Seattle Times reports that Preserve Marriage Washington, the conservative group behind the push to force a November referendum on the new law, collected more than 232,000 signatures, nearly twice the amount they needed to give voters a say on whether same-sex couples should be legally allowed to walk down the aisle in the Evergreen State.
State officials will review the petition over the next several weeks, but the amount of signatures on the filing all but guarantees that Referendum 74 will be on the ballot this fall. Until then, same-sex marriages in the state are on hold.
Washington became the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriages when the gay-marriage bill was was signed into law this past February. Domestic partnerships were legalized in 2007, and an "everything but marriage" clause expanded the existing law in 2009. That extension, however, was later vetoed by voters in a referendum.
An estimated 54 percent of Washington voters believe same-sex marriages should be legal, the Associated Press reports, though no polling has been done on the specific referendum. Even if the bill is overturned in the voting booth, the legislature won't be prohibited from breaching the subject again in the next session.
National conservative groups have already pledged to help push Referendum 74, including the National Organization for Marriage, which helped overturn same-sex marriage laws in California and Maine.
In addition to Washington, three other states will take on the topic of gay marriage in the voting booth this fall. Maryland voters will decide whether to uphold same-sex marriage legislation passed earlier this year, and Maine will revisit a marriage equality bill that was overturned by voters in 2009. Meanwhile, Minnesota is considering a constitutional amendment that will ban same-sex marriage, similar to the one North Carolina adopted last month.
LGBT advocates have been on something of a judicial and state legislative hot streak of late, but they have been so far unable to post a victory in a voter referendum on gay marriage. Voters have gone to the polls more than 30 times since 1998 to have their say on statewide ballot measures on the issue; advocates for same-sex marriage have lost every time.