The Washington Secretary of State's office announced on Tuesday that Referendum 74, an initiative to ban same-sex marriage in the state, will go before voters in November. The measure seeks to overturn a state law passed earlier this year by the legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire legalizing gay marriage.
Preserve Marriage Washington turned in 247,331 signatures, far more than the 120,577 required, to qualify for the ballot. Christopher Plante, the group's deputy campaign director, estimated they would spend around $4 million to encourage voters to pass the measure and that they would also activate churches and use various grassroots tactics as well.
"This bill gives nothing new to gay and lesbian couples," Plante told The Wall Street Journal when asked about the law passed earlier this year. "What it does is redefine marriage for every Washingtonian."
The bill signed by Gregoire legalizing same-sex marriage was supposed to go into effect last Thursday. However, implementation of the bill was suspended once the signatures were submitted last Wednesday.
Supporters of traditional marriage have successfully passed referendums or constitutional amendments in 32 consecutive votes. However, advocates on both sides expect the vote to be close since the state tends to lean to the left on most social issues.
North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage last month and a similar contest will also be waged in Minnesota and Maryland later this year. Currently, six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.
Domestic partnership laws have been on the books in Washington State since 2007 and in 2009, an "everything but marriage" law was passed and upheld by voters in a statewide referendum.
Last month, a poll was taken by Strategies 360, a Seattle public-affairs and consulting firm, that showed 54 percent of Washington State voters think marriage for same-sex couples should be legal. However, voters were not asked if they would vote for or against the upcoming referendum.