Activists drop referendum drive targeting vetoed gay rights bills

A Republican delegate and conservative activists have abandoned their drive for a referendum next year on two gay rights bills vetoed by the governor.

Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. and others previously said they would seek to kill the bills through referendum to thwart any effort by the General Assembly to revive the legislation by overriding the governor's vetoes. Yesterday, they announced they have decided not to do that.

The bills sought to allow people living as partners to make medical decisions for each other and to grant a transfer tax exemption to gay couples who make their partners co-owners of property.

Elections officials said they were still expecting to receive petitions to overturn two other bills that were not vetoed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. One would amend the state's hate crime law to expand protections for gays. The other would require schools to report bullying incidents. Successful petition drives would suspend those bills from becoming law until after the 2006 general election, when voters would decide the issue.