Oregonian social conservatives hit another road block yesterday. The activists, who are pushing to include two anti-gay initiatives on this November’s ballot, claim the state unfairly disqualified many of their petition’s 54,900 signatures. A panel of federal judges disagreed:
Austin R. Nimocks, lead lawyer for the group opposing the new law, told a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel that Oregon’s system of qualifying initiatives and referendums was unconstitutional because it arbitrarily discounted some valid signatures.
“The obligation of the state is to make sure the verification is accurate,” Nimocks said. “That’s not what they are doing.”
But Judge Stephen Reinhardt challenged Nimocks, noting that the state’s system actually seemed to count more invalid signatures than it excluded valid ones.
“The state could make a better system,” Reinhardt said. “But this one actually favors you.”
Judges Harry Pregerson and Ted Goodwin also challenged Nimocks. But Reinhardt was the chief inquisitor, at one point concluding that Oregon’s system of verifying signatures “doesn’t seem unconstitutional.”
The judges gave no word on when they would rule, but anti-gay activists are hoping the state will review the verification system and give invalid signatories a chance to plead their case. Kaye McDonald, an assistant in the state’s Attorney General’s office, said that while the state could, in theory, begin reviewing the signatures, it would take months of legal wrangling and public hearings. And no one wants that – except for social conservatives, of course.