Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Names To Stay Sealed in Washington Domestic Partner Referendum While Judge Hears Case

As many of you know, the state of Washington held a referendum last fall asking the voters whether the state should keep marriage like benefits for Domestic Partners. By 53%, voters approved the measure, making Washington a state with one of the most "marriage like" domestic partnership laws in the country.

Those who opposed the law, aka. those who signed the petition to put the measure on the ballot, sued in federal court the elections committee in the state, saying that they would be harmed by the release of their names. The case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that releasing the names did not block any constitutional rights. The court did say that a lower court should be able to make the final judgement though...and the judge assigned to the case has ordered that the names not be released until he hears the case. Could this be a foreshadowing of how he will rule? From the Seattle Times...

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that signed petitions calling for a state vote on expanded domestic partnerships for gay couples are barred from public release while he hears arguments on whether to block them for good.
The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in June that release of the signatures does not violate constitutional rights, but said the group behind the Washington state initiative can still try to prove the release would put petition signers in danger.
Referendum 71 asked voters to either keep or reject the "everything but marriage" law that expanded already established domestic partnerships for gay couples in Washington state. It was approved last fall with 53 percent of the vote.
Protect Marriage Washington, which was opposed to the new law, spearheaded the effort to get the referendum on the ballot.
The group turned in nearly 138,000 signatures last July, with 121,780 being accepted and qualifying for the ballot. Two gay rights groups, WhoSigned.Org and KnowThyNeighbor.org, previously said they would post the names online, sparking legal action to keep them private.
Referendum campaign organizer Larry Stickney said he and others in the campaign were subjected to threats and harassment for their involvement in the effort.
U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled Wednesday to extend a restraining order that bars public release of the signatures while the case moves forward. He said that if the names were disclosed before a hearing on the case, it would essentially make the case moot.
"The release of the names and addresses could not be undone," he said.

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