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BREAKING NEWS: Ref. 71 state & federal lawsuits
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BREAKING NEWS: Ref. 71 state & federal lawsuits

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

As SGN goes to press, new legal actions centered on Referendum 71 are unfolding in state and federal courts.

On Thursday, September 3, Washington Families Standing Together refiled its suit seeking to block Referendum 71 from making the November ballot in a Thurston County Superior Court.

King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector ruled on Wednesday that the suit, which had originally come to her court, should be refiled in Thurston County. Spector declined to stop the Secretary of State from certifying the referendum - which he did the same day - but she also expressed serious concerns that the Secretary of State had accepted signatures that were not in compliance with state law.

Washington Families Standing Together Chair Anne Levinson told SGN Thursday, "We are not litigating for the sake of litigating. It's important to a lot of people that the initiative process is conducted accurately and in compliance with the law."

The Washington Families suit alleges that the Secretary of State incorrectly accepted petitions that were not signed by the signature gatherer; that he accepted signatures of people not registered to vote at the time they signed; and that he accepted signatures that did not match voter signatures on the registration forms.

About 35,000 signatures at are issue, far more than the 1,430 signature margin by which Referendum 71 qualified for the November ballot.

The filing says that Washington Families is "particularly troubled by these issues given that they arise in the context of an effort by [Protect Marriage Washington] and affiliated special interest groups to deny basic civil rights to citizens of Washington."

"These issues rose to a level of significant concern," Levinson said. "We need to have those issues addressed so that we don't miss a beat as the campaign goes forward."

In another Referendum 71 lawsuit, US District Court Judge Benjamin Settle granted Washington Families' motion to intervene in a suit to make the names of petition signers public. Settle ruled that names could be released to Washington Families, but will otherwise remain sealed until his final decision in the case on September 10.

The names had been sought by Gay blogger Brian Murphy, who wanted to post them on the WhoSigned.org site. Washington Families intervened on the basis "that there was a public policy interest in making the signatures available," according to Levinson.

Levinson hopes that access to the names will help prove her group's contention that many signatures were wrongly accepted as valid by the Secretary of State's office. They would thus be potential evidence in the parallel suit filed in Thurston County on Thursday.

"The law has always been that signatures are subject to public disclosure," Levinson told SGN Thursday. She added that she believes the Secretary of State acted on the basis of bad advice from the state Attorney General's office.

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