The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked a
lower court order to release the names of signers to a ballot measure
in Washington State while it considers taking up the case. The
intervention is just the latest move in a long battle mounted by
anti-gay foes to shield the names of people who signed a petition
that puts a gay-inclusive domestic partnership law up to a vote.
The order follows Justice Anthony L.
Kennedy's temporary hold issued on Monday, the Seattle Times
Protect Marriage Washington, the group
responsible for collecting the nearly 138,000 signatures to put
Referendum 71 on the November ballot, appealed to the Supreme Court
after the 9th Circuit ordered the release of the names
Gay rights group WhoSigned.org
wants to publish the names on the Internet. Under Washington State
law, names of people who sign petitions become public record after
the Secretary of State verifies a petition.
Opponents say releasing the names would
put those people at risk of harassment, reprisals and boycotts of
their businesses, amounting to an unconstitutional infringement on
free speech rights.
Protect Marriage Washington is being
represented by the Christian-based legal group Alliance Defense Fund
(ADF). The ADF earlier set up a Referendum 71 webpage to collect
data from people who “have been threatened or suffered retaliation
after signing an R-71 petition” or were prevented from signing a
If Referendum 71 fails it would only
repeal rights approved by the Legislature this year, the second time
the gay-inclusive domestic partnership law has been extended.
Governor Chris Gregoire signed into law the original bill that
created the domestic partnership law and the two extensions. This
year's law places domestic partners on par with married couples with
regards to rights and obligations offered by the state, and was
dubbed the “everything but marriage” bill by the media.
Washington State bans gay marriage by law.
Gay activists say they want to make the
names public to foster a dialogue on gay rights. The court's
actions, however, dramatically dim the chances that the names will be
released before the November 3 election.