The road ahead for the gay marriage battle

Q: Lawmakers passed the bill, so what’s next?

A: The Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate must sign it and deliver it to Gov. Chris Gregoire. Once it arrives, she has five working days to act on it. She says she’ll sign it as is.

Q: When does it become law?

A: Ordinarily, 90 days after the end of the regular session, which would put the date this year at June 7.

Q: Ordinarily?

A: Well, you’ve heard there may be an attempt to repeal it with a referendum.

Q: How does that work? When can a referendum be filed?

A: After Gregoire takes action, opponents can file the paperwork. It must include the text of the bill as passed by the Legislature and acted upon by the governor.

Q: When can I sign a petition to put it on the ballot?

A: In roughly three weeks. First, lawyers in the Attorney General’s Office write up a ballot title, a concise description of the measure and a summary to appear on the ballot. They have five working days to complete this task. In the ensuing five working days, anyone dissatisfied with the ballot title or summary may petition the Thurston County Superior Court for changes. The court is required to “expeditiously review” any requests and any decision is final. After that, sponsors can print petitions and begin collecting signatures.

Q: How many signatures of registered voters are required?

A: The bare minimum is 120,577, though the state Elections Division suggests turning in 150,000 or more to cover invalid and duplicate signatures.

Q: What is the deadline for turning in signatures?

A: June 6.

Q: What happens to the gay-marriage law in the meantime?

A: If petitions are filed, the law is put on hold while election officials check to see if enough valid signatures are turned in. If the referendum qualifies for the ballot, the law remains on hold until the results of the election are known and certified Dec. 6.

Q: What if there are not enough valid signatures?

A: Then the law goes into effect right away.

Q: How long does the signature check take?

A: If sponsors submit a large enough pad, a random sample can be checked in about two weeks; a full every-signature check can take a month.

Q: Is there a “window” in which same-sex couples can marry, between the bill being approved by the Legislature and Governor and a vote in November?

A: No.

Q: What is required for passage?

A: A simple majority of registered voters.

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