- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2001

ANNAPOLIS (AP) Supporters of Maryland's proposed homosexual-rights law filed a response yesterday supporting the finding of a court master that there are potential problems with as many as 7,500 signatures on petitions filed to put the bill before voters next November.
Charles Butler, a Washington lawyer representing Free State Justice, said his response also adds 50 to 100 signatures not included in the review by Walter Childs, the court master.
Mr. Butler said the report justifies the position taken by Free State Justice, and "that's why we filed the action."
Yesterday was the deadline for lawyers involved in the case to file a response to the Childs report.
The Maryland Attorney General's Office is representing state officials named in the Free State Justice lawsuit, but Michael Berman, an assistant attorney general, said his office would not file any exceptions to Mr. Childs' findings.
Washington lawyer Brian Fahling asked for an extension of one week because he said more time was needed to go over all of the signatures questioned by Mr. Childs.
Mr. Fahling represents TakeBackMaryland, which conducted the drive that collected signatures of 47,539 registered voters, 1,411 more than was needed to block the law until it is voted on next November.
If more than 1,411 are thrown out, the law will take effect without voter approval. It adds sexual orientation to the state law that prohibits discrimination based on factors such as race, religion and sex.
Mr. Fahling said he will challenge most of the master's report, including a finding questioning the validity of about 4,000 signatures because the description of the law was not printed on the form but was stapled to it.
"In my wildest ideas, I can't imagine that that would serve as a basis to exclude signatures," Mr. Fahling said.
Tres Kerns, chairman of TakeBackMaryland, said that based on his group's analysis of Mr. Childs' report, "there are enough signatures there to keep the referendum on the ballot."

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