Supporters of Wash. gay rights bill sue to halt Ref. 71

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Supporters of Washington State's "everything but marriage" gay-rights expansion bill have sued the Secretary of State in an attempt to block an initiative to bring the bill before Washington voters in November, Janet I. Tu of The Seattle Times reports.

In May, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed into law a bill that would have expanded the state's domestic partnership law, first established in 2007. Passed by more than half of state legislators, the bill would have provided domestic partners with the same benefits as married couples.

Opponents of the bill have since made speedy efforts to collect 120,577 signatures for Referendum 71, an attempt to overturn the state's decision and put the bill in the hands of voters.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of struggles over the signatures, which are still being counted. Opponents and supporters have taken turns craning their necks over state-appointed checkers, and both sides have complained that the signatures have been unfairly accepted and rejected by state workers.  Now, as the count draws to an end, proponents of the bill have made what some have called a "last-ditch effort" to block Ref. 71. from getting on the November ballot. The lawsuit seeks a temporary hold on the referendum, arguing that two types of signatures -- voters who had not registered prior to signing the petition, and those who did not sign the back of the petitions -- are padding the counts.

In an effort to increase transparency, staff from the Secretary of State have put together a daily blog and a Twitter to follow the signature counts. The final counts are expected to be completed by Tuesday.