Gay marriage opponents closer to qualifying R-74

OLYMPIA — Opponents of gay marriage said Wednesday that they have reached the number of signatures needed to qualify a proposed referendum seeking to overturn a law legalizing gay marriage in Washington state, and could turn them in to the state as early as next Tuesday, ahead of a June 6 deadline.

Joseph Backholm, with Preserve Marriage Washington, said that the campaign for Referendum 74 has at least 150,000 signatures on hand. Backers of R-74 need to turn in 120,577 valid voter signatures by next Thursday in order to qualify for the ballot. The secretary of state’s office recommends that campaigns submit about 150,000 signatures in order to provide a cushion for invalid or duplicate signatures.

“We feel that it’s going to be adequate to get it on the ballot,” he said. “We’re quite confident of that.”

Backholm said that his group hopes to hit 200,000 signatures, and that they want to turn the signatures in ahead of the deadline, possibly as early as Tuesday.

On Wednesday, a poll by a Seattle public affairs and consulting firm, Strategies 360, showed that 54 percent of voters think it should be legal for same-sex couples to get married, though the poll doesn’t specifically ask them how they’ll vote on R-74.

National groups have already promised time and money to the effort, including the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage, which was involved in ballot measures that overturned same-sex marriage in California and Maine.

Washington state has had domestic partnership laws since 2007, and in 2009, passed an “everything but marriage” expansion of that law, which was ultimately upheld by voters after a referendum challenge. The Legislature approved gay marriage earlier this year, and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed it in February.

Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Maryland legalized gay marriage this year as well, though opponents there are promising to challenge it with a ballot measure and on Tuesday delivered more than twice the number of signatures required. Activists in Maryland say they submitted 113,000 signatures on petitions on Tuesday — double the 55,736 needed to put the issue on the ballot.

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Online:

Referendum 74 language: http://bit.ly/Aog5aO

Preserve Marriage Washington: http://preservemarriagewashington.com

Washington United for Marriage: http://washingtonunitedformarriage.org

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