Fight begins to keep names of referendum signers private

  • Jerry Cornfield
  • Wednesday, July 29, 2009 7:54am
  • Local News

Tuesday brought a flurry of activity on whether the names of those who sign Referendum 71 will be released to the public.

Today, the matter heads into court where organizers of the Referendum 71 campaign will ask a federal judge to bar the Office of the Secretary of State from making those names public.

Protect Marriage Washington, the group spearheading the signature-gathering drive, is seeking a temporary restraining order against the state..A hearing is set for 2:30 p.m. in front of U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin H. Settle, in Tacoma.

The group on Saturday turned in petitions signed by an estimated 138,500 people. If at least 120,577 are of registered voters, the referendum will go on the November ballot.

The measure aims to repeal a new law expanding rights for same-sex couples registered with the state as domestic partnerships. Supporters of the law call it “everything but marriage” because it extends to same-sex couples are the benefits and privileges given by the state to married heterosexual couples except marriage.

On Tuesday, Brian Murphy of Whosigned.org requested a copy of those names from the Secretary of State.

As noted on its Website, the group intends to pur them online

“Once signature petitions for initiatives and referenda are submitted and verified by the Secretary of State they are part of the public record. When signatures for Referendum 71 have been verified WhoSigned.Org will:

•Work to make this public record signature information accessible and searchable on the internet

David Ammons, spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed, said Tuesday afternoon the list will be available by the end of this week or early next week.

“We are a little uneasy about their release and certainly hope they will not be used to harass or intimidate anyone who chose to take part in the democratic process that is guaranteed in the constitution,” he said.

While it is possible to use the information in a harassing manner, he said, “that is certainly not the way Washingtonians likt to have their civil discourse.”

James Bopp, Jr., an attorney representing Protect Marriage Washington, argued harassment is the purpose for getting the information.

“The State cannot allow the release of the names on the Referendum 71 petition when the purpose is to harass and intimidate people who are merely exercising their right to speak,” Bopp stated in the release.

Bopp, Jr. of Indiana-based Bopp, Coleson &Bostrom is lead counsel in the case, according to a press release. Attorney Stephen Pidgeon of Everett, who is associated with the Alliance Defense Fund, is expected to handle today’s proceeding.

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