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Hours after the Maryland general assembly passed a domestic-partnership bill and adjourned its 2005 session, one of the legislature's most conservative lawmakers said he will try to stop domestic partnerships from becoming law by organizing a petition drive to put the measure on the 2006 ballot. Del. Donald Dwyer of Anne Arundel County, an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage, said he'll pursue the referendum drive whether or not Gov. Robert Ehrlich decides to allow the bill to become law. If it becomes law, it would go into effect July 1. But a successful petition drive would suspend the law until after the 2006 general election, when voters would decide the issue. The Republican governor hasn't revealed whether he plans to veto the legislation, but he left open the possibility Tuesday that he will sign it. His administration's policy, he said, is to "protect traditional marriage," but added, "On the other hand, there are real-life situations" that may merit awarding medical decision-making rights to domestic partners. Dwyer said he'll still pursue the referendum even if Ehrlich vetoes the legislation, because he doesn't want to risk the Democrat-controlled general assembly's overriding the veto when lawmakers convene in January. Dwyer, who said he'll enlist the help of hundreds of pastors to help with the drive, must collect 51,185 signatures of registered voters by June 30 to put the question on the general election ballot. Senators gave final approval to the bill in the last hour of the session Monday night, after halting a filibuster staged by Republican senator Alex Mooney. The legislation creates a registry of domestic partners, straight and gay, who would be allowed to make medical decisions for each other. In an attempt to broaden support for the bills, supporters agreed in the final days of the session to add a clause stipulating that nothing in the legislation could be construed as an endorsement of same-sex marriage.