Gay Marriage Referendum 74 Ballot Language Approved

Mar 14, 2012

OLYMPIA -- Same sex marriage supporters in Washington state are chalking up a small victory Tuesday. A Thurston County judge agrees with changes they wanted on a possible voter referendum.

Last month, the legislature passed a bill that allows gay couples to marry. The referendum seeks to repeal that law.

At issue in court today was what voters would read on the November ballot. The ACLU and other groups rejected proposed language from the Attorney General’s Office, specifically a statement that the new law would “redefine” marriage.

Doug Honig is with the ACLU. He says they’re happy with the outcome.

“The term redefine is not going to be in there and that was a very misleading term because the law passed by the legislature doesn’t change marriage," Honig says. "It simply extends it to same sex couples who weren’t able to get married in the past.” Honig thinks the language for Referendum 74 is now more fair, accurate and concise.

Joseph Backholm disagrees. He’s with the Family Policy Institute of Washington. It’s sponsoring the referendum. He says the term “redefine marriage” is accurate.

“Well, that’s what it does," Backholm says. "The statute says marriage is a civil union between a male and female. And it would be changed to say marriage is a union between two persons. So that is a textbook, definitional change.”

Judge Thomas McPhee’s ruling today is final. That means gay marriage opponents are now free to start gathering signatures on the referendum.

Backholm’s group needs to collect more than 120,000 valid signatures by June 6th. If they meet the deadline, the new gay marriage law will be on hold until the outcome of a November vote.

Copyright 2012 KUOW