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Gay marriage issue may be put to a vote this November

The group Preserve Marriage Washington yesterday submitted an estimated 232,000 petition signatures, virtually assuring a public vote this fall on whether to uphold or overturn the same-sex marriage measure signed into law earlier this year.

Sponsors planned to bring in at least 9,000 more signatures by the end of yesterday (Wednesday). The total of 241,000 signatures would twice produce the number of voter signatures needed to make the ballot.

The sponsors of Referendum 74 now will be campaigning for voters to turn down the recently passed marriage law. Supporters of "marriage equality" will be campaigning for an affirmative vote.

Absent the R-74 challenge, the marriage law would have gone into effect today (Thursday). Assuming the signature verification turns up at least 120,577 valid voter signatures, R-74 will be on the Nov. 6 ballot, and the law will be on hold until the voters speak, and until the election is certified on Dec. 6.

Because of the large number of signatures submitted, according to state Election Co-Directors Shane Hamlin and Katie Blinn, the checkers will be using a 3 percent random sample to check that the signer is a registered Washington voter and that the signature matches the one on file for the voter.

According to the Public Disclosure Commission, Protect Marriage Washington has raised about $43,000, spending most of it on the signature-gathering phase. The group seeking voter approval of same-sex civil marriage rights, Washington United for Marriage, has collected over $714,000 so far. Both groups predict heavy spending and national attention this fall.

Several initiatives to the people are circulating, and have a July 6 turn-in deadline.

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