As expected, Washington Values Alliance president Larry Stickney this afternoon filed a ballot measure to overturn Senate Bill 5688, which grants state-registered domestic partners most of the rights of married spouses.
More than 5,000 couples have registered in the past two years, including many same-sex couples.
"We disagree with the law...As a citizen of Washington state, I'm here, working with a broad-based coalition," Stickney said at an impromptu two-minute press conference. "We're going to do all we can to turn this back."
"We consider it marriage," he said. Across the county, he said, "we're seeing marriage achieved by judicial fiat. And this kind of legislation kind of tees it up for the courts to act."
Most major ballot measure campaigns (e.g. last year's assisted suicide measure, or anything by Tim Eyman) milk the news of their filing for maximum free publicity to get the word out. In Eyman's case, we practically have to roll up our car windows on him as we pull out of the parking lot.
But Stickney was clearly caught off guard -- and annoyed -- to find several reporters waiting for him at the Secretary of State's elections division. He initially declined to take questions.
"I'll have that all in a nice, tidy press release later this afternoon," he said.
In the meantime, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, sent out a statement saying that he's confident that Washington voters uphold the legislation. Murray, one of several openly gay state lawmakers in Washington, sponsored the bill.
"People are coming to a growing understanding that gay and lesbian people are their neighbors, their siblings, their cousins and nieces and nephews," said Murray. And Washingtonians value fairness, he said.
"While it's regrettable that a referendum is being filed to undo the progress we made this session to treat gay and lesbian families the same as married families, I don't believe that voters will decide in November to take away rights from anyone," he said.
Foes of the legislation have until July 25th to gather the more than 120,000 signatures necessary to put it on the ballot. Since not everyone who signs a petition turns out to be a registered voter and some sign multiple times, state election officials recommend a cushion of about 25 percent extra signatures. That means that Strickland and the coalition have less than three months to gather about 150,000 signatures.
He said they're confident they can do it.
"We've got contacts within our coalition with many many thousands," he said. "We go to the people of Washington. The organizations we're involved with have large lists."