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Originally published June 16, 2009 at 3:22 PM | Page modified June 16, 2009 at 3:34 PM

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Withhold signatures on Referendum 71

Referendum 71 is a petition campaign that voters can confidently ignore. No one is going to read the 114-page bill that extends rights for registered domestic partners. The Legislature put the fairness in the details.

WASHINGTON voters have every good reason to ignore signature gatherers who seek to block an expansion of rights for registered domestic partners. The details are in the legislation, which will not get read in haste at the supermarket.

Seeking to create or undo complex legislation via clipboards and folding tables in public places is a perilous civic enterprise.

Especially so for Referendum 71, which needs 120,577 signatures by July 25 to put a domestic-partnership bill before voters in November. The Legislature passed and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed legislation giving same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities of married couples in Washington.

The petition process stops the bill from becoming law until the fate of the referendum effort is known. The effort should fail.

The legislation, Senate Bill 5688, is fundamentally about gay and lesbian couples and their families living within the framework of the law, with all its practical realities and complexities.

These are adults in committed relationships, raising children, running businesses and owning property. They have real estate, pensions and sick leave, and child-custody issues that are part of the work-a-day world.

As the office of Secretary of State reminds us, state law requires petitions to include every word of a measure seeking a place on the ballot. The 114-page bill has been reduced down to a marvel of type-size and origami that unfolds from a single sheet to a kite-size 2 feet by 3 feet.

Voters stopped on the street or in front of a grocery store are not going to review the law. Lawmakers in Olympia did that already. The dense legal prose is about business-succession rights and workers' compensation. The legislation is no more radical than helping our neighbors and their families live their lives.

The measure Referendum 71 seeks to block will not be read by casual petition signers. That is a shame, because the innate fairness intended in the legislation is truly in the details.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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