Pro-family campaigners will once again try to shield the identities of individuals who signed a petition for a referendum (R-71) contesting Washington state’s “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law. The law gives homosexual couples in domestic partnerships all the rights and responsibilities of marriage, except the name, putting the state one step closer to legal same-sex “marriage.”
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Protect Marriage Washington (PMW) intends to file a motion requesting a specific exemption from the state’s public disclosure law, which requires the names and addresses of all petition signers to be made available in a publically searchable database.
The group says that it wants to protect the 138,000 people who signed R-71 petitions, saying that homosexual activists stated intention to compile a public list of their names could lead to recrimination of various sorts, as happened to supporters of California’s Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage.”
The threat of harrassment has reached such a level in California that potential pro-family witnesses for the lawsuit challenging Proposition 8 withdrew out of fear that the proceedings might be televised. Other prongs of the pro-family movement have testified to the climate of fear that has stifled voices in favor of traditional marriage.
“If the R-71 petitions are released, petition signers face a reasonable probability of threats, harassment, and reprisals,” reads the motion to be filed from attorney James Bopp, who is representing the group.
The Post-Intelligencer reports that Washington state officials, however, are arguing for the disclosure of the names in conformity with the state’s Public Records Act, which the Supreme Court upheld in June.
“Voters of Washington want their government operating in open, transparent and accountable ways, and treating petitions as a public record is in keeping with that desire,” Secretary of State Sam Reed said. “The Supreme Court has made it clear that there can be no blanket ban on releasing petitions and that it will be a tall order for challengers to make the case for keeping this information secret.”
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against PMW in an 8-1 decision, rejecting their argument that the state’s public disclosure law violates the U.S. Constitution. However, the Court said that they could ask for special protections if they proved that the public availability of their names would lead to political reprisal.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the majority opinion, said that public disclosure “helps ensure that the only signatures counted are those that should be, and that the only referenda placed on the ballot are those that garner enough valid signatures.”
“[W]e have explained that those resisting disclosure can prevail under the First Amendment if they can show ‘a reasonable probability that the compelled disclosure [of personal information] will subject them to threats, harassment, or reprisals from either Government officials or private parties,’” he said.
Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in his concurrence, however, was less sympathetic.
“There are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for self-governance. Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed,” Scalia observed.
U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle is awaiting the official transfer of the case from the U.S. Supreme Court back to his bench in Tacoma. Afterwards, new motions will be able to be filed officially with his court.