Gov. Gregoire signs same-sex civil marriage bill

  • Written by David Ammons, Communications Director, Office of Secretary of State

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law the bill authorizing civil marriage for same-sex couples, SB6239, at 12:06 p.m. Monday, February 13, making Washington the seventh state with such a law.  It may not take effect on  June 7, as scheduled, however, as a referendum challenge is in the wind.

Several hundred cheering partisans, and one heckler, crowded into the ornate State Reception Room for bill-signing ceremonies.

Sen. Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen, both Seattle Democrats from the 43rd District, the prime sponsors, spoke before Gregoire took the podium to loud cheers and the chant “Gregoire! Gregoire! Gregoire.” She was flanked by many of the legislators who voted for the measure during the past two weeks. Crowds lined the balconies and steps of the rotunda, watching on closed-circuit TV.

Gregoire, emotional at times, said it was a proud and definingmoment for civil rights in Washington, and predicted that if the measure is placed on the ballot as a referendum, voters will uphold it, as they did R-71, the “everything but marriage” law in 2009.

Challengers attempted to file a ballot challenge before Gregoire had acted on the bill, and we asked them to come back later in the day.It takes 120,577 valid signatures of registered Washington voters to secure a place on the ballot. The Elections Division suggests submitting at least 150,000 to cover invalid or duplicate signatures.

The signature deadline is June 6.  If signatures are turned in, that suspends the new law from taking effect as scheduled on June 7.

If the challengers don’t turn in enough signatures, the marriage law would go into effect then. If the challengers qualify for the ballot, then the law would stay on hold until the Nov. 6 election and certification on Dec. 6.

Some FAQs:

R-74 is the new number for Washington’s gay marriage referendum filed by opponents of the new marriage law signed by the governor on Monday. It turns out that R-73 was assigned last spring to a campaign challenging last year’s medical marijuana law; nothing came of that effort. The marriage referendum has been transmitted to the stateAttorney General’s Office for preparation of a ballot title, 30-word concise description, a 75-word-limit ballot summary, and a question that clearly defines the intent of the voter. The attorneys will have five days to produce these.  After that, anyone dissatisfied with the ballot title/summary has five days to seek review by the Thurston County Superior Court, which is required to “expeditiously” handle the challenge(s) and render a decision within five days.  The decision of the court is final.  If it makes the ballot, voters will decide whether to affirm or reject the new law.

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