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Updated Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 02:28 PM

Ref. 74 supporters claim victory

By Lornet Turnbull and Justin Mayo
Seattle Times staff reporters

Gay-marriage supporters across the country celebrated clear victories in three states Wednesday, their exultation tempered by a narrow lead in Washington state, where as many as 1 million ballots are still uncounted.

In the most recent ballot count in Washington on Wednesday evening, Referendum 74 was still narrowly winning approval 52 percent to 48 percent.

With incoming ballots from King County increasingly favoring the measure — 67.6 percent Wednesday, up from 65.5 percent on Tuesday evening — gay-marriage opponents seemed unlikely to gain enough votes to win.

Just to catch up, they would need 54 percent of the estimated 1 million remaining ballots statewide, and more than a third of those are expected to come from King County.

By midday Wednesday, as victories were being lauded in Maryland and Maine, where voters approved gay marriage, and in Minnesota, where a constitutional ban against it was defeated, campaign officials in Washington declared victory.

Washington United for Marriage, the campaign seeking to retain the state's same-sex-marriage law, said it had crunched the numbers and couldn't see any way its opponents could overcome the gap.

The campaign held a news conference in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood on Wednesday to announce it.

"We have run the numbers every which way, and we can now confidently say that we have won," said Zach Silk, campaign manager.

"This is a historic day for Washington, a historic day for our country and, most of all, for families across the state who have dreamed of this day and the wedding celebrations to come."

Their opponents were not yet giving up.

In a conversation earlier in the day, Frank Schubert, political director for the National Organization for Marriage, which ran anti-same-sex marriage campaigns in all four states, said, "It may turn out they're right.

"We are clearly behind; there's some ground to make up and I'm not saying its necessarily going to change," he said.

"But there are still a lot of ballots out there."

Gay marriage was being rejected in all but eight of the state's 39 counties.

The highest approval rate was being reported in San Juan County, where 70 percent of voters were approving Ref. 74.

Rejection rates as high as 70 percent and above were coming in from counties across Eastern Washington.

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or lturnbull@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @turnbullL.

Ref. 74 results

As of 10 p.m. Wednesday

Yes: 51.96% - 1,104,025

No: 48.04%- 1,020,812


STEVE RINGMAN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
After wiping away tears of joy as same-sex-marriage supporters on Wednesday claimed victory for Referendum 74, Jodi Denny of Seattle listens to questions at a news conference in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Opponents have not yet conceded, with about 1 million votes left to be counted.




STEVE RINGMAN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Keri Pravitz of Seattle pumps her hand in the air at the conclusion of a news conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill where same-sex-marriage supporters claimed victory for Ref. 74.




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