Opponents of expanded rights for gay couples in Washington have secured a referendum over the issue.

The law, known as the ‘Everything but marriage’ measure, was due to come into law in June but was put on hold due to the referendum campaign.

If the state’s voters approve it, it will give gay couples all the rights afforded to heterosexual couples, such as adoption and child support rights. However, measures which cost the state, such as pension rights, will be delayed until 2014 due to Washington’s budget problems.

A number of religious and conservative groups are opposing the move and it was announced yesterday they had collected more than the necessary 120,577 signatures needed to get the issue, Referendum 71, on the November ballot.

As with Proposition 8, the initiative which banned gay marriage in California, the referendum is likely to reignite the debate on whether voters should be allowed to decide on human rights issues.

A pro-gay group, Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST), has already filed a lawsuit asking for an injunction to block the referendum, saying that secretary of state Sam Reed had not followed petition rules and accepted thousands of petitions that should have been rejected. Some of these were said to lack the details of the petition gatherer.

Chair of WAFST, Anne Levinson, said in a statement: “Because of the limited number of signatures turned in, failure to enforce these laws could well lead to a measure being qualified for the ballot that should not be, and that measure has the potential to strip away important protections from thousands of families all across the state.

“There are domestic partners in every county of the state. They are same sex couples and heterosexual couples where one or both partners is 62 years or older. These couples should not have to worry about whether a partner can take sick leave to care for a loved one who is ill. A firefighter should not have to worry about whether her children will be taken care of if something should happen to her while fighting a fire.

“These are basic rights and protections that all families should have. Those trying to qualify Referendum 71 for the ballot do not think that families different than theirs should have these protections, so they are trying to overturn the law.”