- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — A Republican delegate and conservative activists have abandoned efforts to overturn two of the bills passed this winter by the General Assembly that would broaden homosexuals’ rights.

One bill would establish a domestic partnership registry that would allow homosexual and straight partners to make medical decisions for each other. The other bill would grant a transfer tax exemption to homosexual couples who make their partners co-owners of property. Both bills have been vetoed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., but the General Assembly could override the vetoes when it convenes in January, keeping alive the possibility that the bills could become law.

Elections officials still expected to receive petitions to overturn two other bills that were not vetoed by Mr. Ehrlich. One would amend the state’s hate-crime law to expand protections for homosexuals. The other would require schools to report bullying incidents.

The deadline for petitions, with signatures from 17,062 registered voters on each, was midnight yesterday. Elections officials say a successful petition drive would suspend the hate crimes and school reporting bills from becoming law until after the 2006 general election, when voters would decide the issue.

Less than a week ago, those pushing the referendum drives announced they were moving ahead with their efforts. But the logistics of collecting thousands of signatures on petitions for four bills were difficult, said Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., whose group High Impact Leadership Coalition collected about 1,000 signatures in the D.C. suburbs.

“I think when you start talking about hate-crimes bills or whatever, it’s just so complicated. There isn’t a clear rallying cry,” Mr. Jackson said.

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