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Judge rewrites ballot language on gay marriage

Tue., March 13, 2012, 4:57 p.m.

Statement contains ‘religious freedom’

OLYMPIA — A Thurston County judge rewrote the language voters would see on a possible ballot measure to block the state’s same-sex marriage law, adding the words “religious freedom” in the official “statement of subject.”

Responding to challenges of ballot language proposed by the state Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office, Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee said the short statement of Referendum 74’s subject is “marriage for same- sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law and religious freedom”.

In his concise description of the ballot measure, McPhee also removed language McKenna’s office had proposed, that the bill “would redefine marriage.”

While the attorney general’s office had proposed telling voters that the legislation would “allow” clergy to refuse to marry same-sex couples, McPhee’s language says it would “preserve the right” of clergy to refuse such actions.

Various sections of language proposed by McKenna’s office was challenged by Preserve Marriage Washington, opponents of same-sex marriage who will be gathering signatures in an attempt to put the issue on the November ballot, and by supporters of the legislation that was signed last month by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

That’s not uncommon for controversial initiatives or referenda, and the language often must be settled in court. McPhee’s ruling cannot be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have until June 6 to gather about 241,000 signatures from registered voters. If they don’t the law goes into effect June 7; if they do, the law can’t take effect unless voters approve it in the November elections.


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