Judge orders release of signatures on petition about expanded same-sex rights

  • By Jerry Cornfield
  • Monday, October 17, 2011 12:44pm
  • Local News

The public could know soon who signed petitions to put the question of expanded rights for same-sex couples up for a statewide vote in 2009.

Today, a federal judge ruled the names of the 138,000 people who signed petitions for Referendum 71 can be disclosed to the public.

Protect Marriage Washington, which led the signature-gathering drive, has fought release of the names. Leaders insist disclosing the identities would subject the signers to harassment. The Arlington-based group took its challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 and argued petition signing, like voting, is constitutionally-protected political speech.

But the high court ruled against the group last year. It found the First Amendment is not an absolute shield against disclosure and upheld the use of Washington’s Public Records Act to obtain the names of initiative signers.

However, the majority of justices did say disclosure could be blocked in some instances if sponsors of a measure show there is “a reasonable probability” signers will be the target of “threats, harassment, or reprisals from either Government officials or private parties.”

Protect Marriage Washington tried to do just that in federal court but U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle concluded they did not make the case.

Six people have filed requests for the records from the Secretary of State’s office.

To see the names and all the documents in this case, go here.

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