Referendum 71

Rita Hibbard's picture

Microsoft gives $100,000 to the campaign to save domestic partnership

rita_hibbardweb3Microsoft  has come out for the 'everything but marriage law' in Washington state, donating $100,000 to the campaign seeking to retain the state's expansion of the state's domestic partnership law. The law, up for a public vote Nov. 3, extends marriage-like state benefits to gay and some senior couples.

The Seattle Times reports that the donation brings to nearly $780,000 the total amount raised so far by Washington Families Standing Together. That far outweighs the $60,000 raised to date by the law's opponents, Protect Marriage Washington, the group that forced the measure onto the ballot by gathering 120,000 signatures. It's the largest donation the campaign has received so far.

As InvestigateWest reporter Carol Smith recently reported in a story broadcast on Seattle radio station KUOW, voting on Referendum 71 can be tricky. A "yes" vote would leave intact the expanded rights for domestic partners already approved by the Legislature. A "no" vote would repeal those rights.

Smith reported on senior couples who don't realize how the law could adversely affect them.

Anne Levinson chairs the Approve 71 campaign to uphold the state's domestic partner rights. She told Smith that many seniors don't realize hospitals could keep them from a loved-one's bedside.

Federal judge blocks release of Ref. 71 signatures

Washington State's Referendum 71, which allows voters to decide on whether the state should extend domestic rights to gay couples, may have made the November ballot nearly a week ago, but the petitions are still making headlines, reports Janet I. Tu of the Seattle Times.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle has decided to shield the names of those who signed the petitions that got R-71 onto the ballot, citing that they are protected under the First Amendment and blocking the state from releasing the petitions to the public.

While the Secretary of State's Office has said that it is obligated to release the papers under the Public Records Act, Protect Marriage Washington -- a group opposed to the extended benefits -- filed a lawsuit to protect the petitions, arguing that the signers "would be subject to threats and harassment."

While the block is just a preliminary injunction, the judge has openly sided with Protect Marriage Washington, writes Tu:

Settle said he wasn't convinced that release of the names is necessary as "an important check on the integrity of the referendum election process." Indeed, Settle said that Protect Marriage is likely to succeed in its claim that the public-records act is unconstitutional as applied to the disclosure of referendum petitions.

Some are concerned that the ruling could affect the application of Washington's public disclosure law on future initiatives. Transparency is important to us at InvestigateWest, so we'll keep you posted.

-- Natasha Walker

Ref. 71 makes the ballot, campaigning begins

After nearly a month of meticulous signature counts, the results are in: Referendum 71, which could allow Washington state voters to overturn the "everything but marriage" law granting rights to gay couples,  has qualified for the November ballot, reports the Everett Herald staff.

Despite efforts by supporters of gay rights to halt the process, the secretary of state's office said Monday that petitioners had obtained over 1,000 extra signatures, giving voters a chance to decide on whether an extension of the state's domestic partnership law has a place in Washington.

However, the lawsuit filed by Washington Families Standing Together has not gone unnoticed. The group's request for an injunction that would block the secretary of state from officially placing Ref. 71 on  the ballot is expected to have an answer by Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Janet I. Tu of the Seattle Times reports that opponents and supporters of Ref. 71 are already gearing up for the next stage: two months of heavy lobbying. Said Anne Levinson, chairwoman of Washington Families Standing Together:

It's full speed ahead.

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

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.