- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

It's now up to an Anne Arundel County, Md. Circuit Court judge to decide whether an anti-discrimination measure protecting homosexuals in Maryland would become law or go to referendum.
After a coalition of conservatives, led by the grass-roots group TakeBackMaryland, gathered enough signatures to send the bill to the November 2002 ballot for voters to approve or reject, homosexual-rights activists tried to stop the referendum by challenging the validity of about 4,000 signatures.
A special master appointed to find facts in the case issued a report late last week that notes multiple grounds for questioning many of the signatures, including witness dates that don't match signature dates and signatures that appear on pages that do not contain a required summary of the bill, said Charles Butler, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
More than 1,412 signatures would have to be ruled invalid to stop the referendum, and Mr. Butler said he's optimistic the judge will rule enough signatures invalid.
A wire report that stated as many as 7,500 signatures could be invalid appears to be inaccurate.
The article apparently based that figure not on the number of signatures that could be ruled invalid, but on a count of the number of instances in which signatures could be challenged. A signature could be challenged for several reasons, and was mistakenly counted more than once in the wire article.
The court's decision could hinge on whether the judge agrees with the plaintiffs' argument that Maryland law requires a bill summary to appear on each sheet that contains petition signatures for those signatures to be valid.
Opponents and proponents of the anti-discrimination measure have been promised assistance by national groups and each has vowed to battle for their side until they have exhausted legal recourse.
Both sides have until Monday to dispute any findings of lawyer Walter Childs of the Annapolis office of Linowes and Blocher, the special master in the case.
If the judge upholds enough signatures to send the bill to the ballot, the referendum could still be derailed by the plaintiffs' claims that opponents obtained some signatures fraudulently by misrepresenting the bill.
The Anti-Discrimination Act of 2001, approved this spring, would forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation in matters of housing, employment and public accommodations.
Proponents of the measure, such as Free State Justice and the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore, also argue that the bill is not subject to referendum under Maryland law.
That argument is based on the bill's public-accommodations provisions, which they argue make it a liquor law. Maryland's Constitution prohibits liquor laws from going to referendum.

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