Same-sex couples in Oregon had ample reason to celebrate last night, as opponents of the US state’s recently passed domestic partnership law failed to gather enough signatures to put a referendum overturning the measure on the November 2008 ballot.

Opponents needed 55,179 valid, unduplicated signatures for the referendum to move forward.

Although nearly 63,000 signatures were turned in to state officials, only 55,063 of them were found to be valid and unduplicated, the Secretary of State’s office said yesterday.

When the law goes into effect early next year it will allow gays and lesbians to enter into legal partnerships similar to marriage.

Opponents such as former state Senator Marylin Shannon, a spokeswoman for the petition drive, have objected to the law, saying the state already endorsed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a partnership between a man and a woman in 2004.

“This just flies right in the face of that ban,” Shannon told the Associated Press earlier today.

Supporters of the law and of marriage equality, on the other hand, were ecstatic after hearing the announcement.

“This is a proud day for Oregon,” Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director John Hummel said in a release.

“In refusing to sign these petitions, Oregonians showed that they aren’t interested in rolling back our anti-discrimination laws.

“Oregonians know that discrimination is wrong,” he added.

“They believe it’s wrong for a good employee to be fired just because they are gay, and it’s past time for Oregon’s law books to say so. And they know that committed couples should have the legal means to take care of each other, especially in a crisis.”

A second petition that would force a vote on a law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations was submitted with 59,761 raw signatures.

Signatures on that petition are still being reviewed in county elections offices.

Both laws go into effect on January 1st 2008, though opponents have said they plan to launch a new campaign to repeal the laws.

“We’re not discouraged,” Shannon told the Associated Press. “We definitely will file initiatives to repeal both of these laws.”

“It’s unfortunate that this small group doesn’t get the message: most Oregonians know that discrimination is wrong,” Hummel responded.

“We look forward to the day when Oregon can close the book on this divisive chapter of our history.”

Bryan Ochalla © 2007 GayWired.com; All Rights Reserved.