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June 6, 2012 at 10:27 AM

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Gay marriage opponents turn in more than enough signatures

Opponents of same-sex marriage on Wednesday submitted an estimated 232,000 signatures to the Secretary of State -- all but guaranteeing that the question of whether gays can marry in Washington will now be decided by voters.

Preserve Marriage Washington, the campaign's sponsors, planned to bring in at least 9,000 more signatures by the end of the day.

The number of signatures Preserve Marriage Washington gathered for Referendum 74 far exceeds the minimum 120,577 the campaign needs to qualify the measure for the November ballot, and is well above the 150,000 that had been recommended.

The same-sex marriage legislation, which the governor signed in February, was to have taken effect on Thursday but now remains on hold until the election.

The validity of signatures will be tested by the Secretary of State's Elections Division.

Approval of Ref. 74 in November means same-sex partners would be allowed to legally wed.

And while rejection of the measure would repeal the law, Peter Nicolas, law professor at the UW, said there's nothing preventing the Legislature from bringing up the issue again in the next session.

Washington is likely to be one of four states with a same-sex marriage measure question on the ballot in this presidential election year, with every effort in each of those states backed by the National Organization for Marriage.

In Maryland, opponents of gay marriage have turned in more than enough signatures to allow voters to decide whether to retain or reject same-sex legislation passed by lawmakers there.

In Maine, gay-rights advocates are asking the same voters who recalled a same-sex marriage law in that state in 2009 to restore it.

And in Minnesota, voters will consider whether to ban gay marriage in their state's constitution -- in similar fashion to a constitutional ban that voters in North Carolina approved last month.

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