Wash. referendum on same-sex marriage qualifies for fall ballot

Wash. referendum on same-sex marriage qualifies for fall ballot
Officials at the Secretary of State's office begin to sort petitions for Referendum 74 , which would provide a public vote on gay marriage, Wednesday, June 6, 2012, in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A referendum to overturn Washington's new law allowing same-sex marriage has qualified for the November ballot.

A random check of the over 200,000 signatures submitted to overturn the law was completed Tuesday and showed that R-74 had met the state's requirements to be placed on the ballot, the Secretary of State's office said.

Preserve Marriage Washington submitted the signatures on Wednesday, just a day before the state was to begin allowing same-sex marriages.

The law, passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year, would make Washington the seventh state to have legal same-sex marriages. National groups have already promised time and money to fight the law, including the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage, which was involved in ballot measures that overturned same-sex marriage in California and Maine.

It's an issue that has implications across the ballot. President Barack Obama recently declared his support for gay marriage, and the referendum has split the state's two candidates for governor.

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. A poll by a Seattle consulting firm Strategies 360 showed that 54 percent of voters think it should be legal for same-sex couples to get married, though the poll didn't specifically ask them how they would vote on a referendum.

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, but that state is also poised to have a public vote this fall.