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Revision as of 09:32, 25 February 2014

Voting on
Marriage and Family
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Ballot Measures
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Ballot measures
in Washington State
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Political topics on the ballot

The Washington Domestic Partner Rights Bill, also known as Referendum 71, was on the November 3, 2009 ballot in Washington as a veto referendum, where it was approved, thus upholding the legislation. The measure expanded the rights, responsibilities, and obligations accorded to state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.[1]

Election results

Washington Referendum 71 (2009)
Approveda Yes 951,822 53.15%

Election results via: Washington Secretary of State

Text of measure

The language that appeared on the ballot:[1]

The legislature passed Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5688 concerning rights and responsibilities of state-registered domestic partners and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill.

This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities, and obligations accorded state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.

Should this bill be: [ ] Approved [ ] Rejected[2]

Fiscal note

A fiscal impact statement was included in the 2009 Voters' Guide. The fiscal impacts of Initiative 985 are described as follows:[1]

Referendum 71 would enact legislation, E2SSB 5688, that expands the rights, responsibilities and benefits of registered domestic partners. Referendum 71 would increase state costs by paying for additional worker compensation and crime victim claims benefits; additional state employee pension survivor benefits; and other administrative expenses. Costs are estimated at $900,000 for fiscal years 2009–11, $1.5 million for fiscal years 2011–13 and $1.6 million for fiscal years 2013–15. State revenue from estate taxes estimated at $260,000 would be reduced in fiscal years 2013–15, while $7,000 in annual fee revenue would be gained.[2]


Washington Families Standing Together, WhoSigned.Org and Equal Rights Washington led the campaign in favor of the measure. Business firms and organizations that supported the measure included: Boeing, Microsoft, Nike, Puget Sound Energy and the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, Washington State Bar Association and the Washington Association of Churches endorsed the campaign.[3] On September 28, 2009, the Seattle City Council approved a resolution urging residents to approve the measure.[4]


The following reasons were given in support of Referendum 71 in the Washington 2009 Voters' Guide:[1]

The Domestic Partnership Law Protects All Washington Families

This law ensures that all Washington families have the same protections, rights, and responsibilities as their neighbors. The law guarantees that all families will be treated fairly, especially in times of crisis. Many gay and lesbian couples, often with children, and many senior couples are domestic partners. Often these seniors can’t marry without sacrificing needed health and pension benefits. Domestic partnership laws allow them to protect their loved ones.

“This law provides essential protections to many older couples and to families with children who would otherwise be living without a safety net.”

What is included in the Domestic Partnership law?

  • Death benefits for partners of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty
  • Right to use sick leave to care for a seriously ill partner
  • Pension benefits for partners of teachers and other public employees
  • Victims’ rights Right to workers’ compensation benefits if a partner is killed in the course of employment

Who supports the law?

More than 150 organizations, including congregations and faith based organizations and their leaders, all across our state – like the Washington State Nurses Association, Washington Association of Churches, AAUW, Childhaven, Washington State Senior Citizens’ Lobby, Associated Ministries of Pierce County, Asian and Pacific Islander Women and Family Safety Center, Jewish Family Service, Anti -Defamation League, Washington Education Association, Planned Parenthood, Japanese American Citizens League, Lutheran Public Policy Network, SEIU, Latino Political Action Committee, American Federation of Teachers, King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Safe Schools Coalition, Mainstream Republicans, Equal Rights Washington, PFLAG, Young Democrats of Washington, Washington State Bar Association.

They, and we, ask you to vote APPROVED on R 71 - for ALL Washington families.[2]

The arguments in favor of Referendum 71 were prepared by:[1]

  • Kelly Fox, President, Washington State Council of Fire Fighters
  • Denise Klein, Executive Director, Senior Services
  • Linnea Hirst, President, League of Women Voters of Washington
  • Paola Maranan, Executive Director, Children’s Alliance
  • James Kelly, CEO, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle
  • Audrey Haberman, Executive Director, Pride Foundation


$2,177,137 was reported as raised in support of Referendum 71. Washington Families Standing Together received the majority of contributions, $2,096,995.[5]

The top eight donors to Washington Families Standing Together were:[5]

  • Coie Perkins: $275,363
  • Pyramid Communications: $102,051
  • Microsoft: $100,000
  • Human Rights Campaign Approve Ref 71 PAC: $78,500
  • American Civil Liberties Union of Washington: $49,014
  • Pride Foundation: $36,353
  • Fuse Washington: $30,145
  • Equal Rights Washington: $25,679


"Protect Marriage Washington" was the official campaign organization opposing the referendum. Other opponents included the Washington Values Alliance and the Faith and Freedom Network.


The following reasons were given in opposition to Referendum 71 in the Washington 2009 Voters' Guide:[1]

Reject Senate Bill 5688 to Preserve Marriage!

SB 5688 is primarily about homosexual marriage - not benefits.

Senator Ed Murray told the Seattle Times (Jan. 10, 2007), when announcing the Domestic Partnership Bill, “The goal is marriage equality. It's an important statement that our eyes are on the prize, and the prize is marriage." Representative Jamie Pederson told the Times (Jan. 28, 2009) that SB 5688 will give homosexuals “a bridge until they can legally marry.”

Senator Murray told the Times (May 17, 2009) that the domestic partnership expansion (SB 5688) is an “incremental approach…a strategic plan.”

SB 5688 is the last incremental step to same-sex marriage in Washington State.

Reject Senate Bill 5688 to Protect Families!

Marriage between one man and one woman is the foundation for civilized societies and has been for centuries. Marriage does not exist just for the emotional satisfaction of two individuals, but for the greater good of the social order. Marriage is about providing the most stable and healthy environment in which to raise children.

Reject Senate Bill 5688 to Protect Children!

SB 5688 redefines terms such as “husband” and “wife” to be construed as “gender neutral.” The new law will confuse children and likely result in public schools influencing children to accept a new definition of the “family unit” so that same-sex partners will be a recognized norm.

Reject Senate Bill 5688 to Protect Taxpayers!

If Senate Bill 5688 is implemented, it will mean another massive expansion of government and Washingtonian taxpayers will be stuck with a multi-million dollar bill. Now is not the time to provide more entitlements to a very small minority of the population.[2]

The arguments against Referendum 71 were prepared by:[1]

  • Larry Stickney, Campaign Manager, Protect Marriage Washington
  • Gary Randall, President, Faith and Freedom Network
  • Matt Shea, Representative (R), 4th Legislative District, Washington State Legislature
  • Stephen Pidgeon, Attorney at Law, P.S.


$494,892 was reported as raised in opposition to Referendum 71.[5]

The top five donors to the campaign against the referendum were:[5]

  • Family Policy Institute of Washington: $200,000
  • James Bopp: $126,508
  • Bryant Adams: $12,725
  • Stephen Pidgeon: $10,000
  • National Organization for Marriage: $10,000

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Washington ballot measures, 2009


  • The Stranger said, "A vote to approve R-71 is a vote to uphold the domestic-­partnership bill. If passed, it gives the state's 6,000 registered couples the right to take leave from work to care for a critically ill partner, the right for public-sector employees to share pension benefits with their partners, and dozens of other rights that straight couples enjoy—and all committed partners deserve."[6]
  • The Seattle Times said, "We strongly endorse voter passage — mark "approved" on the ballot — of a bill that expands rights for registered domestic partners. Ignore the hyperbolic scare campaign against this measure."[7]
  • The Olympian said, "The Olympian's editorial board offers an unqualified endorsement of equal rights for same-sex domestic partners."Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

Path to the ballot

137,881 signatures were filed by Lawrence Stickney of Arlington on May 4, 2009 and sent to the Secretary of State.[8]

Signature validity count

During the signature verification process, the Washington Secretary of State's office maintained a website that displayed a fresh count each weekday of the status of the process of verifying R-71 signatures.[9]

As of September 2, 137,881 signatures had been reviewed. Over 122,007 of them had been accepted as valid.[10]

87.6% of the signatures had to be valid in order for the measure to qualify for the ballot or, conversely, the invalidity rate couldn't go over 12.4%.[11]

R-71 signature verifiers and observers. Photo credit: Washington Secretary of State's office
Date Signatures checked Signatures accepted Rate of invalidity Citation
120,577 required Can't exceed 12.4%
September 2 137,881 122,007 11.51% [10]
September 1 137,881 121,847 11.63% [12]
August 31 137,881 121,617 11.80% [13]
August 28 129,996 114,583 11.86% [14]
August 27 125,631 110,797 11.81% [15]
August 26 117,069 103,198 11.85% [16]
August 25 110,288 97,261 11.81% [17]
August 24 103,898 91,716 11.72% [18]
August 21 97,287 85,920 11.68% [19]
August 20 88,191 77,637 11.97% [20]
August 19 79,195 69,949 11.67% [21]
August 18 72,976 64,713 11.32% [22]
August 17 65,531 58,306 11.03% [23]
August 14 58,493 51,645 10.99% [24]
August 13 50,493 45,099 10.68% [25]
August 12 48,289 43,147 10.65% [26]
August 11 33,214 29,752 10.42% [27]

Description of checking process

Video explaining the signature verification process

At the office of the Washington Secretary of State, each signature on the R-71 petition went through three stages of checking.

  • First-line checkers examined each name to see if it is on the state's list of 3.7 million registered voters state. They then compare the signature on the petition to the signature on the voter's voter-registration card. Signatures are rejected at this stage if the name can't be found on the list of registered voters.
  • On the second round, rejected signatures got a second look by more experienced checkers.
  • On the third round, new signature checkers were added who used the live statewide voter database to try to locate signers who may have registered more recently and weren't in the database from June 19.[28]

Signature observers

People in favor of R-71 and opposed to R-71 are allowed to observe the process. The rules governing these observers are;

  • Three observers from each side are allowed in the counting room at one time.
  • Observers aren't supposed to interact with checkers.
  • Observers aren't supposed to write down names or addresses of petition signers.
  • If observers have concerns about a signature, they are allowed to make a note for themselves of where the signature appears on the petition so that later on, they have this information for launching a signature challenge.[28]

Supporter concerns about process

As the signature verification process unfolded, R-71 supporters expressed these concerns about the way the signatures were collected:[28]

  • They say that some signature checkers wear headphones while they work, which could be a distraction.[28]
  • Signature-collecting staff has sped up the count, which they think has led to signatures being rejected that should have been accepted.[28]
  • Signature supervisors have rolled their eyes when concerns are expressed.[28]

Opponent concerns about process

Opponents of R-71 being on the ballot say that:

  • It is possible that thousands of signatures that signature-checkers say are valid, are in fact not valid.[28]
  • Opponents argue that observers, those who initiated the referendum, violated the rules that observers are supposed to follow.[28]

Notable features of petition drive

The petition drive to qualify R-71 for the ballot was notable for several reasons:

  • It attracted a Decline to Sign campaign against it.
  • A website, WhoSigned.Org, was created to publish the names of anyone who signs the petition.
  • The petition form itself was approximately 2x3 feet in dimension. This is because the petition form had to include every word of the statute petitioners were seeking to overturn (SB 5688), and SB 5688 is 114 pages long.[29]
  • KnowThyNeighbor.org said that they plan to publish all the names and addresses listed on Referendum 71 petition sheets on the Internet.[30]

Newly registered voters

An area of contention in what counts as a valid signature has to do with newly-registered voters.[31]

Some background facts:

  • In Washington, there is no date on the petition forms. Thus, it is not possible to know with certainty when a petition signer signed a petition.
  • The policy that the Washington Secretary of State's office is taking is that if a voter is registered to vote as of the day that the voter's signature is checked, the signature counts. They say, "...initiative and referendum gatherers typically carry voter registration forms with them and this promotes voter registration. At the time of the signature check, we know whether the person is a validly registered voter in the state of Washington. We support the policy behind this. The only signatures that are counted for the petition are signatures of validly registered voters."[31]
  • The office also has said, "There is no deadline for registering to vote for purposes of qualifying an initiative or referendum; as a practical matter, the deadline is the date that the signature on the petition is checked. Checkers are instructed that a signature on a petition is valid if they find a person with the same name in the voter registration file, and the signature on the petition matches the signature in the voter registration file. The registration date has never been a limiting factor."[32]

Some observers have suggested that this procedure may become the subject of a lawsuit challenging some of the validated signatures.

Doe v. Reed

See also: Doe v. Reed
Photo credit: Washington Secretary of State's office
  • At the request of Protect Marriage Washington, federal judge Benjamin Settle issued a temporary restraining order on July 29, 2009 to halt the public release of a list of those who signed the R-71 petition.[33] Supporters of R-71 said in their TRO request that releasing the identity of petition signers might put those signers at risk of harassment, leading to a situation where their First Amendment rights are chilled. A hearing on whether to make the TRO permanent took place on September 3, 2009.[34]
  • On September 10, 2009 federal judge Benjamin Settle maintained the restraining order on the signatures. State officials, were therefore, not permitted to release the names of those who signed the petitions.[35][36]
  • On September 18, 2009 the state appealed the Judge Settle's ruling in early September. The case was scheduled for an October 14 hearing with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • On July 20, 2010 anti-gay marriage activists renewed their efforts to ban the release of R-71 petitions. The case was temporarily dismissed. According to reports, they can refile once the United States Supreme Court releases the case back to the U.S. District Court in Tacoma.[44]
  • On August 11, 2010 U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle denied a request by the state to immediately release the petition names. However, Judge Settle agreed to putting the case on a fast track. Both parties had 10 days to provide lists of their witnesses; 60 days for discovery; and 45 days for briefings.[45]
  • U.S. District Court in Tacoma heard the case on October 3, 2011.[47][48] U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle is expected to rule on the case in two weeks. He will determine whether R-71 petitions should be permanently sealed from public access.[49]
  • On October 17, 2011 U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled that the R-71 petitions can be released. Settle said, disclosure would become the exception, rather than the rule, if just a few instances of harassment were used as the standard for preventing the release of names. Later that day, Washington State officials released copies of petitions.[50]
  • October 21, 2011 - Protect Marriage filed a notice to appeal the October 17 ruling by U.S. District Judge Settle. As of October 20, the state had released 34 DVDs of the petition signatures but announced they would suspend any further release.[51]
  • November 8 - Judge Settle rejected a motion to block the public release of Referendum 71 petitions while Protect Marriage Washington appealed the October ruling.[53]

Campaign finance lawsuit

  • On October 21, 2009, Family PAC filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Family PAC is requesting that the court allow the PAC to accept contributions of more than $5,000 and to be exempt from disclosing donor's names. According to campaign finance laws in Washington, no contributions over $5,000 may be made during the 21-day period prior to the election. The group has not yet registered with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.[55]
  • On October 27, 2009, Judge Ronald Leighton denied the request made by Family PAC. A full hearing date regarding the campaign finance challenge has not yet been set.[56]


See also: Polls, 2009 ballot measures
  • A poll conducted October 14 – 26 by the Washington Poll revealed that 56% of voters planned to vote in favor of Referendum 71, while 39% were opposed and 5% were undecided. They polled 724 registered voters. The margin of error is reported to be +/- 3.6%.[57][58]
  • On September 28, 2009 the Washington Secretary of State's blog "From Our Corner" announced that an Elway Poll by independent pollster Stuart Elway revealed that 46% of voters planned to vote "yes," while 41% planned to vote no on R-71.[59]
  • The Washington Poll released polling results for 2006-2008 on September 2, 2009. According to their report polling results revealed that the number of voters in favor of domestic partnership rights has increased by 8% in two years. On the other hand, the number of voters against domestic partnership rights has decreased by 5% from 2006-2008.[62]
  • KING5/SurveyUSA conducted a survey of 1,050 adults between October 3-October 5. The poll showed R-71 ahead by 3% points, with 13% of those surveyed undecided.[63]
Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided/Other
2006 Washington Poll 58% 26% 16%
2007 Washington Poll 59% 22% 19%
2008 Washington Poll 66% 21% 13%
September 2009 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR) 51% 44% 4%
September 2009 Elway Poll 46% 41% 13%
October 2009 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR) 53% 36% 11%
Oct. 3 - 5 KING5/Survey USA 45% 42% 13%
Oct. 14 – 26 Washington Poll 56% 39% 5%

See also

Suggest a link

Articles on the campaign

Articles on the signature count

Articles on signature privacy issues

Articles on lawsuits


External links

Additional reading



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Office of the Secretary of State, "2009 Voters Pamphlet", accessed September 6, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  3. The Seattle Times, "Approval of Referendum 71 attracts broad community support," September 24, 2009
  4. On Top Magazine, "Seattle Urges Approval Of Gay Partner Law," September 29, 2009
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Follow the Money, "Referendum 71: Legal Domestic Partnerships", accessed September 6, 2013
  6. The Stanger, "2009 Endorsements", October 15, 2009
  7. The Seattle Times, "Seattle Times election endorsements", October 30, 2009
  8. Office of the Secretary of State, "History of Referendum Measures", accessed September 6, 2013
  9. R-71 signature statistics
  10. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named SigCert
  11. Seattle Times, "Both sides complain of Ref. 71 signature check, prepare to appeal", August 27, 2009
  12. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 9-1-09," September 1, 2009
  13. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-31-09," August 31, 2009
  14. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-28-09," August 28, 2009
  15. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-27-09," August 27, 2009
  16. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-26-09," August 26, 2009
  17. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-25-09," August 25, 2009
  18. Signature spreadsheet as of August 24
  19. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-21-09," August 21, 2009
  20. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-20-09," August 20, 2009
  21. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-19-09," August 19,2009
  22. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-18-09," August 18, 2009
  23. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-17-09," August 17, 2009
  24. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-14-09," August 14, 2009
  25. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-13-09," August 13, 2009
  26. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-12-09," August 12, 2009
  27. Washington Secretary of State Signature,"Referendum 71 Volumes Completed 8-11-09," August 11, 2009
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 28.5 28.6 28.7 Seattle Times, "Both sides complain of Ref. 71 signature check, prepare to appeal", August 27, 2009
  29. News Tribune, "Time ebbs for ballot measures; Eyman’s might be only one on ballot", June 14, 2009
  30. The Oregonian,"States should back privacy over intimidation when it comes to petitions," September 18, 2009
  31. 31.0 31.1 Snohomish County Progressive Examiner, "Referendum 71 signatures may face challenge", August 27, 2009
  32. The Stranger, "R-71 Signers Didn't Have to Be Registered Voters When They Signed the Petition", August 25, 2009
  33. Ballot Access News, "Referendum Proponents Ask Federal Court to Protect Secrecy of Petition Signers", July 29, 2009
  34. Seattle Times, "Judge halts release of Wash. referendum signatures", July 29, 2009
  35. Seattle Times, "Judge shields signatures in gay-rights referendum", September 10, 2009
  36. Text of "Protect Marriage Washington v Sam Reed"
  37. Associated Press,"9th Circuit lifts ban on release of R-71 petitions," October 15, 2009
  38. Washington Post,"Thuggish liberalism at work in Wash. state vote," October 31, 2009
  39. The New York Times,"Privacy Looms Over Gay Rights Vote," October 31, 2009
  40. Washington Secretary of State: From Our Corner,"R-71 petitions: Supreme Court sets April hearing," February 16, 2010
  41. The Spokesman Review,"Hearing set over petition signatures’ privacy," February 16, 2010
  42. The Seattle Times,"U.S. Supreme Court to hear Referendum 71 case April 28," February 16, 2010
  43. The Seattle Times,"Supreme Court rules petition signatures public; Ref. 71 names not immediately available," June 24, 2010
  44. Washington Secretary of State's: From Our Corner,"R-71 sponsors renew bid to ban petition release," July 20, 2010
  45. The Seattle Times,"Ban remains for now on release of R-71 petition signers' names," August 11, 2010
  46. Washington Secretary of State's blog: From Our Corner,"Thurston judge OKs release of initiative petitions," September 3, 2010
  47. Ballot Access,"Trial in Doe v Reed, Petition Privacy Case, Set for September 27, 2011," February 25, 2011
  48. The Seattle Times,"Fight resumes over releasing Ref. 71 names," October 2, 2011
  49. Washington Secretary of State: From Our Corner,"Judge: Ruling on Doe v. Reed R-71 disclosure case in 2 weeks," October 4, 2011
  50. Associated Press,"State releases Referendum 71 petition names," October 17, 2011
  51. The Seattle Times,"State stops releasing Ref. 71 petitioner names," October 21, 2011
  52. The Seattle Times,"Niners block further release of R-71 petitions," October 24, 2011
  53. The Seattle Times,"Judge won't halt release of Ref. 71 petitions," November 8, 2011
  54. Washington Secretary of State's blog - From Our Corner,"Challengers seek Supreme Court order against R-71 releases," November 17, 2011
  55. Associated Press,"Group wants to hide donors in R-71 campaign," October 22, 2009
  56. The Seattle Times,"Judge rejects R-71 opponents' bid to lift donor limit," October 27, 2009
  57. Washington Poll,"2009 ballot measures," October 27, 2009
  58. Washington Secretary of State: From our corner,"WA Poll: R-71 leads, I-1033 trails," October 27, 2009
  59. Washington Secretary of State,"Indie poll shows R-71 a close call...," September 28, 2009
  60. Capital Hill Seattle Blog,"Poll: Domestic partnership Referendum 71 could be doomed by the 'unsure'," September 23, 2009
  61. Approve 71,"Approve 71 campaign poll shows a tough fight ahead. Victory hinges on voter turnout," September 23, 2009
  62. Washington Poll,"Public Opinion Regarding Same‐sex Domestic Partnerships in Washington," September 2, 2009
  63. SurveyUSA,"Results of SurveyUSA Election Poll #15877," October 2009