Language Finalized for Washington Marriage Referendum

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com March 15 2012 9:10 AM ET

A Washington judge finalized language for the proposed referendum to repeal the new marriage equality law after ruling that the phrase “redefine marriage” cannot be included.

The Associated Press reports on the ruling Tuesday from Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee after both sides had challenged the proposed language for Referendum 74. Marriage equality advocates had opposed as a “loaded term” the original wording from Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna, which said the new law "would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry."

The decision cleared the way for Preserve Marriage Washington, a coalition working with the National Organization for Marriage to overturn the law, to start gathering signatures Wednesday to put the referendum on the ballot. The marriage equality law signed by Governor Christine Gregoire last month takes effect June 7, but it will be put on holding pending the outcome of a November referendum if opponents collect 120,577 valid signatures by June 6.

Opponents of same-sex marriage show a high success rate at the ballot in over 30 states since 1998, but advocates in Washington, who have been preparing for the referendum, have strong reason to believe they can break the streak. In 2009, voters approved Referendum 71 to uphold the expanded domestic partnership law, making Washington the first state to affirm LGBT relationship recognition on the ballot.

Read the ballot language at the Washington Secretary of State’s page.