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Move to block gay marriage in Washington sets up expensive fight

June 07, 2012|By Mark Z. Barabak
  • Petitions for Referendum 74, which would provide a public vote on same-sex marriage, wait to be counted in Olympia, Wash.
Petitions for Referendum 74, which would provide a public vote on same-sex… (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)

The gay rights movement may have come further, faster than any civil rights movement in the nation’s history. But the fight over same-sex marriage continues unabated.

The latest front is Washington state, where opponents of a law allowing gay marriage filed petitions this week seeking a November referendum on the issue. The move successfully prevented the law, passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire this year, from taking effect.

Although the vote to legalize same-sex marriage was bipartisan, opponents expressed confidence voters in Washington state will defeat the measure, joining every other state that has put the issue before the public.

“Thirty-two states have voted on this issue. No states have voted to redefine marriage. People think this country is divided down the middle on this issue, and that’s simply not true,” Christopher Plante, spokesman for Preserve Marriage Washington, told the Los Angeles Times’ Kim Murphy in Seattle.

“The fact of the matter is, if you look at what Americans have done, from the deepest blue states like Maine, California and Wisconsin to the Bible Belt, when they’ve had a chance to define marriage as one-man, one woman, that’s what they’ve done.”

Supporters of gay marriage, anticipating the referendum will qualify after a review of signatures, have started raising money for what is expected to be a multimillion-dollar campaign.

“It’s true that 32 out of 32 states have gone the wrong way on this, so we’re definitely fighting against pretty daunting precedent,” Zach Silk of Washington United for Marriage told Murphy. “We would certainly consider ourselves the underdogs, but we feel like we’re in a strong position, and Washington is probably one of the more likely places where we can win.”

Same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Three other states -- Maine, Maryland and Minnesota -- are also expected to vote on same-sex marriage initiatives in November.

On the legal front, the issue appears destined for consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court this year. This week,  the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said a majority of the court's active judges voted against reconsidering the decision of a three-judge panel to overturn California’s voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Lawyers in the case expect the high court to review Proposition 8 this fall and decide its constitutionality next June. Until the Supreme Court acts, Proposition 8, which passed in 2008, will remain in effect.

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