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WA gay marriage opponents closer to qualifying R-74

OLYMPIA — Opponents of gay marriage said today they have more than half of the signatures they need to qualify a proposed referendum seeking to overturn a law legalizing gay marriage in Washington state.

Joseph Backholm, with Preserve Marriage Washington, said that the campaign has 70,000 signatures on hand. Backers of Referendum 74 need 120,577 valid voter signatures in order to qualify the referendum for the ballot. The secretary of state’s office recommends that campaigns submit about 150,000 signatures in order to provide a cushion for invalid or duplicate signatures.

“We have every expectation that this will be on the ballot,” said Backholm.

Backholm said that so far, all of the signature collection has been done by volunteers, but that the campaign hasn’t ruled out employing paid signature gatherers for the final push. He said that many petitions are still yet to be turned in.

“We’re not concerned that there’s a lack of support for the effort,” he said. “But we want people to have a sense of urgency.”

Washington state has had domestic partnership laws since 2007, and in 2009, passed an “everything but marriage” expansion of that law, which was ultimately upheld by voters after a referendum challenge. The Legislature approved gay marriage earlier this year, and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed it in February.

Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Maryland legalized gay marriage this year as well, though opponents there are promising to challenge it with a ballot measure.

Voters in North Carolina on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman. North Carolina is the 30th state to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. After previously saying that his views on the issue were evolving, President Barack Obama revealed his support for gay marriage in an interview with ABC News on Wednesday.

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