The Supreme Court announced Friday it
will consider whether Washington state officials can release the
names of signers of a ballot measure that sought to repeal a gay
rights law, the AP reported
It is the second time in a week that
the court has become involved in the issue of privacy as it relates
to opponents of gay rights.
Protect Marriage Washington appealed to
the Supreme Court after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
ordered the release of nearly 138,000 signatures that put Referendum
71 on last fall's ballot.
Referendum 71 put a domestic
partnership law that gives gay couples all the rights of marriage to
a vote. The law was approved by legislators and signed by the
Voters, however, agreed with lawmakers
and approved Referendum 71.
Opponents say releasing the names would
put signers at risk of harassment, reprisals and boycotts of their
businesses, amounting to an unconstitutional infringement of free
Protect Marriage Washington, the
sponsor of Referendum 71, 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 petition.
In their filing before the court,
opponents argued that gay groups want the information to “encourage
harassment and intimidation.”
“No citizen should ever worry that
they will be threatened or injured because they have exercised their
right to engage in the political process,” James Bopp, Jr., a
lawyer for Protect Marriage Washington, told the news agency.
The gay rights group WhoSigned.org
says it wants to publish the names on the Internet to foster a
dialogue on gay rights. “We can't let discrimination be
perpetuated and sit back and say, 'That's OK,'” Brian Murphy of
WhoSigned.org told the Seattle Times last fall.
Under Washington state law, names of
people who sign petitions become public record after the Secretary of
State verifies a petition. State officials argue that the names
should be released because signers are acting in place of lawmakers,
who do not approve laws in secret.
On Wednesday, justices
moved to block a plan to broadcast the first federal case to
challenge the constitutionality of a gay marriage ban taking place in
San Francisco. In that case, gay rights opponents have also said
that they fear reprisals if their views are made public.