Thursday, August 12, 2010

Update on Referendum 71

Despite Ruling, Judge Won't Allow Petition Signers' Names to Be Made Public
by Steve Weinstein
EDGE Editor-In-Chief
Thursday Aug 12, 2010

One of the most contentious issues of the day -- whether or not people who sign petitions to bring controversial measures to the ballot box should have their identities shielded from public view -- is continuing. A federal judge in Tacoma, Wash., ruled Aug. 12 that those who signed a state petition to bring to a vote the expansion of domestic partnerships would still not be made known to the public, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the matter.

The Seattle Times reported that U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle extended a restraining order from those opposed to the Supreme Court's ruling. "The release of the names and addresses could not be undone," he said.

Washington State argued for the release of the names. Deputy Solicitor General Anne Egeler argued that there was no "likelihood of irreparable harm now that the election is over and there is no evidence presented that anything has happened in the intervening time. We've been to the Supreme Court and back, and we still have citizens of the state who want those documents and have a right under state law to receive them."

The ongoing controversy has its roots in the efforts of a group called Marriage Washington, which put forward Referendum 71, a ballot initiative that would have rolled back extending legal protections to same-sex couples.

Gay activists wanted the names of those who signed petitions to put the measure on the ballot to be made public. Protect Marriage pointed to alleged harassment and boycotts in California of those who had defended or supported Proposition 8.

The U.S. Supreme Court finally decided on July 24 in an 8-1 decision that when people sign petitions to put ballot initiatives before voters, the First Amendment does not shield them from public disclosure. The case was widely considered one of the most important that the court had handed down this term.

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