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Tuesday, June 6, 2006 - Page updated at 04:56 PM

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Effort to repeal gay rights law falls short

Seattle Times staff reporter

OLYMPIA – Referendum 65, a measure aimed at repealing Washington's gay-rights law, will not be on the November ballot.

Tim Eyman came up short in getting enough signatures to qualify Ref. 65. State law required the campaign to turn in 112,440 signatures of registered voters by 5 p.m. today. Eyman said they collected 105,103 signatures.

Ballot measure supporters generally need to collect 25 to 30 percent more signatures than required to make sure they have enough valid signatures to qualify.

From the start, Eyman had trouble getting money to run the campaign. His political action committee, Let the Voters Decide, only raised about $4,000. That's not nearly enough money to hire paid signature gatherers.

The campaign was aided by a coalition of conservative religious groups that organized a grassroots campaign to gather signatures at churches and at rallies held throughout the state.

Joseph Fuiten, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Network, which helped lead the signature drive, said the failure to get enough signatures does not indicate most people support the gay-rights law.

The law, passed by the state Legislature earlier this year, adds sexual orientation to a state law that bans discrimination based on race, gender, religion and other categories.

The lack of signatures, Fuiten said, tells him that "Tim Eyman has a knack for messing stuff up. He's kind of an interloper on this whole thing in my opinion. Part of the deal is resistance to him."

Fuiten said, "There are millions of people in the state of Washington who don't want to see that become law. It's not a question of lack of support. It's really a question of organization and getting the work done."

John Vezina, campaign manager for the opposition group, Washington Won't Discriminate, said his group had expected Eyman to get enough signatures to put Ref. 65 on the ballot.

Vezina said he hopes the failure shows that "in 2006 Washingtonians are talking to their friends and family and colleagues and don't want to hurt those people based on their sexual orientation."

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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