Equal marriage in the state of Washington, which was passed through the legislation earlier this year, has been delayed from becoming law, as opponents submit more than 200,000 signatures to force the measure through a referendum this November.
The anti-equality group Preserve Marriage Washington submitted almost 232,000 signatures for Referendum 74, which is nearly twice the number of required signatures to put the measure to a public vote, and exceeds the 150,000 recommended by the Legislature to ensure disqualifications due to duplicates or invalid signatures.
The legislation, which was passed in February, would have come to effect tomorrow, but now cannot be implemented until the end of the election, frustrating hundreds of couples seeking to tie the knot in the state.
Unlike California’s Proposition 8, approval of Referendum 74 would allow gay couples to legally wed. While rejection would mean the law cannot take effect, legal observers note that there is nothing that prevents the liberal-leaning Legislature from bringing the issue up again in the next session.
Washington is one of the four states, along with Maryland, Maine and Minnesota, which will be voting on equal marriage this November, with the anti-gay National Organisation for Marriage orchestrating the opposition in all four states.
The west-coast state has had domestic partnership laws since 2007, and in 2009, passed a version of law that is akin to UK’s civil partnerships, which is marriage in all but name. This was ultimately upheld by voters in a referendum.
A recent poll by the consulting firm, Strategies 360, found that 54% of voters in the state support equal marriage.