Gay-friendly attorneys are mulling over whether or not to challenge the ballot title for Referendum 71, which seeks to repeal the state domestic-partnership bill, thereby slimming the changes that the anti-gay measure could even qualify for the general election. Here is the language that the state Attorney General’s office proposes would appear on the ballot:
Statement of Subject: The legislature passed Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5688 concerning rights and responsibilities of state-registered domestic partners [and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill].
Concise Description: This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities, and obligations accorded state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.
Should this bill be:
"There are some good aspects with the way the ballot title is written and there are some things that cause me concern,” says state Senator Ed Murray (D-43), who sponsored the domestic partnership bill. “I will defer to the lawyers as to whether or nor we should legally proceed [with a challenge to the ballot title],” he says.
One problem with the proposed language, as it currently stands, is that it implies the legislation provides all the federal benefits of “marriage.” But, in fact, domestic partnerships would provide only the state-granted rights of marriage.
That issue, "is one that we are considering as a basis for a possible title challenge," says attorney Paul Lawrence.
Opponents have until next Tuesday to challenge the language in Thurston County Superior Court. "Friday the 29th would be the earliest that a hearing would be expected, but June 5 or June 12 would be more likely," says Dave Ammons, spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office. The judge, he says, would likely issue a decision the same day. This would leave the Larry Stickney and others in Protect Marriage Washington as few as 43 days to print petitions and collect the 120,577 required to make the November ballot—a nearly impossible challenge.