Backers of Washington’s Referendum 71 have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn last week’s judgment that they must reveal the names of those who signed the petition to get the issue on the ballot. Justice Anthony Kennedy has ordered Washington state to file a response.
In September, U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle temporarily barred state officials from releasing the identities of those who signed the referendum petitions. Settle held that releasing the names could chill the First Amendment rights of petition signers. Gay rights supporters and open-government groups sought to disclose the names, saying that signers should be identified so the public knows who is behind Referendum 71.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Settle’s decision last week. The appeals court said Washington’s secretary of state can release the names and addresses of people who signed petitions calling for a public vote. In appealing to Kennedy to intervene, Protect Marriage Washington argued that state officials had suddenly changed a long-standing practice of keeping confidential the identities of those who signed referendum petitions. The group said signers of the petition fear hostile confrontations from gay rights supporters and noted that their campaign manager had received death threats.
And on and on it goes.