Time is slipping away from Washington's bigot brigade, which is trying to repeal this year's domestic-partnership bill. Washington Values Alliance president Larry Stickney filed a referendum last Monday that needs over 120,000 signatures to qualify for the general-election ballot; the deadline to submit those signatures is static—and inching closer. But Governor Christine Gregoire is delaying Stickney and his cohorts from gathering signatures by putting off signing the bill. Secretary of State spokesman David Ammons provided this update a few minutes ago:

The Attorney General has just notified us that the ballot title and summary for the domestic partnership Referendum 71 will not be issued until Governor Gregoire takes action on Senate Bill 5688. Opponents filed the initiative last week and the Secretary of State’s Office accepted the filing and forwarded it to the Attorney General for the next step of the process before sponsors can print petitions and go to the field. The sponsors will have until July 25 to collect 120,577 valid voter signatures to secure a place on the November 3 general election ballot.

Governor Gregoire has indicated she will take action on the measure next Monday. The bill, dubbed “everything but marriage,” confers all of the rights and responsibilities of heterosexual unions on couples who are on the state domestic partner registry at the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State. Deputy Solicitor General James Pharris, the agency’s legal counsel, wrote Secretary Reed on Monday that the ballot title and summary are being prepared, but won’t be issued “unless and until the governor approves the underlying bill exactly as it passed the Legislature.” If she indeed signs it intact, the legal paperwork will probably come out next Tuesday, he said. If she vetoes any part of it, a new referendum would be needed.

Gregoire, who received the bill weeks ago, could have signed it anytime she liked, of course. But putting it off is a savvy way to reduce the referendum's chances of even making it onto the ballot. After she signs the bill into law, anyone can challenge the referendum's ballot title in court, which would eat up more time. In the end, the gay-obsessed groups behind the referendum could be forced to gather all the signatures in around 60 days—which would require an act of god.