A handful of groups advocating for marriage-equality have just announced that they won’t file a challenge of the ballot title of Referendum 71. The tactic would have eaten up time for opponents to gather signatures for the petition, which would slim the chances that the referendum could even make it on the ballot.
“After we looked very carefully at what the attorney general’s office had drafted … we concluded that the ballot title accurately reflects what the domestic-partnership bill does,” says Lisa Stone, a spokeswomen for Washington Families Standing Together, the newly formed organization fighting to uphold the bill. The recommendation to avoid a challenge came from the ACLU of Washington and Legal Voice (Stone is also the director of Legal Voice). She says that challenging the language simply to defeat the measures could elicit a negative public reaction. “We like to be sure that we are acting as ethically as we can,” she says.
The deadline to challenge the ballot title in Thurston County Superior Court is today at 5p.m.
However, someone else could still challenge the ballot title.
In fact, rumors have surfaced that Protect Marriage Washington (PMW), the group of bigots sponsoring Referendum 71, will file the challenge itself. PMW spokesman Gary Randall did not immediately return calls to comment. And it’s unclear how PMW would seek to improve the wording of the petition, but the strategy could backfire.
Dave Ammons, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, said last week that a judge could hear the case as soon as this Friday. “But June 5 or June 12 would be more likely," he says. PMW would then be left with as few as 43 days to print petitions and collect the 120,577 required to make the November ballot.
Stone says Washington Families Standing Together could then go to court to keep the wording. “We will look very carefully at what they are proposing and determine if we need to intervene,” she says.