A referendum [R-74 text] to overturn a new same-sex marriage law [SB 6239 text] in Washington will appear on the ballots in November, the Secretary of State's office announced [press release; certification, PDF] on Tuesday. Voters will have the option to accept or reject the new law, which legalizes civil marriage for same-sex couples. Last week, Preserve Marriage Washington [advocacy website] presented over 200,000 referendum signatures seeking to overturn the recently signed same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] legislation. The law was scheduled to take effect last Thursday, but was postponed when the signatures were turned in Wednesday. The law will remain suspended until the referendum takes place. Petition signatures were verified [materials] by the Secretary of State through a random sampling of 3 percent of the names.
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed the controversial legislation in February after she announced her plans [JURIST reports] to permit same-sex marriage earlier this year. Gregoire has been a consistent advocate for gay rights during her tenure as governor. In April 2011 she signed a bill [JURIST report] that recognized as legal same-sex marriage licenses from other states. In March 2007 Gregoire signed legislation [JURIST report] that recognized domestic partnership status for same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage remains a contentious issue even after the passage of similar laws in other states. Seven other jurisdictions, including Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia [JURIST reports], allow same-sex marriage.