Opponents of a Washington law that recognizes gay and lesbian couples with nearly all the legal protections of marriage have lost their legal case to keep private the names of signers of a petition that attempted to repeal the law.

Social conservatives wanted to block the public release of the nearly 138,000 signatures that put Referendum 71 on the state's ballot in 2009. The ballot initiative asked voters to accept – or reject – an expansion of an existing domestic partnership law approved by lawmakers. Voters opted 53-to-46 to keep the law dubbed “everything but marriage” by the media.

According to The Seattle Times, the Secretary of State's office will release the names immediately.

Protect Marriage Washington, the Christian conservative group behind the lawsuit, argued that the signers would be harmed – either verbally or physically – if their names were disclosed.

“We still think the people who signed these petitions in good faith acted in a way they didn't think would expose them to the kind of ridicule and possible danger we feel is out there,” Protect Marriage Washington Spokesman Gary Randall told the paper.

But U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle of Tacoma disagreed, saying the group failed to show any “serious and widespread threats, harassment, or reprisals against the signers of R-71, or even that such activity would be reasonably likely to occur upon the publication of their names and contact information.”

Randall said his group planned to appeal.