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Federal Judge Protects Names of Donors to WA Referendum 71

A federal judge has kept sealed the names of donors to Washington's Referendum 71, which places the state's "everything but marriage" domestic partner laws before voters in November, the Seattle Times reports:

Settle  "A federal judge has continued to keep private the names and addresses of those who signed Referendum 71, saying they likely are protected under the First Amendment and that the state failed to prove a compelling public interest in their release. U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma granted a preliminary injunction today, blocking the state from making the petitions public...The Secretary of State's Office — the defendant in the case — has said it is obligated under the state Public Records Act to release the petitions to those who request them.

"But Protect Marriage argued that the law 'chills free speech ... particularly when it is reasonably probable that those exercising their First Amendment rights would be subjected to threats and harassment.' Stephen Pidgeon, attorney with Protect Marriage, said: 'We think this is a good decision. It protects Washington voters' right to speak freely even in impassioned debate.' But Brian Zylstra, spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed, said the judge's decision 'is a step away from open government...When people sign a referendum or initiative petition, they are trying to change state law,' he said. "We believe that changing state law should be open to public view.'"

Yesterday, Washington Families Standing Together, a group which was attempting to block Referendum 71 from making the ballot, announced it would not appeal a decision by a Thurston County judge allowing the measure to go forward and instead work on a campaign to ensure the domestic partner law is retained.

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  1. First of all, NOT repeal a decision? It doesn't take that much work to appeal a case after you clearly have all your facts in place. Is WFST a one man show that can't do more than one thing at a time. We can do just fine organizing the campaign to approve R-71 while at the same time spending a few extra hours of a few people's time arguing for an appeal.

    Now a judge has blocked donor names from being released? That is bullshit. I want to know who is donating money to take my rights away. I have an obligation to know that so I can make a decision to patronize or not patronize their businesses.

    Posted by: Aiden Raccoon | Sep 11, 2009 9:03:13 AM

  2. The right wing conservatives always scream "Judicial Tyranny." This is a perfect example, a law exists which is perfectly clear and this judge specifically ignored it. I think it is an extreme shame. Apparently laws aren't in place to be obeyed, you can disregard them as long as they don't meet your agenda. I guarantee that if the shoe was on the other foot. This (likely conservative-appointed judge) would have required that the signatures be released. It saddens me.

    Posted by: PMWOKC | Sep 11, 2009 9:26:08 AM

  3. This is obviously a bad decision on many levels and should be immediately appealed. Names and addresses of people who are petitioning to change law must be part of the public record. Hopefully, the ACLU will get in there post haste if they haven't already.

    Posted by: Mike | Sep 11, 2009 9:27:35 AM

  4. according to an authoritative sounding commenter on the quoted article (it pays to go to the source material) he is a republican party hack appointed by g w bush. remember all those bench seats the repubs wouldn't let clinton fill. and all those the dems let bush fill. this is why ALL the federal bench is important.

    Posted by: jack | Sep 11, 2009 10:09:19 AM

  5. Just to clarify, it's petition signers that are kept secret by this Federal court ruling and not campaign donors which was decided by the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.

    Posted by: Brian Murphy | Sep 11, 2009 10:23:48 AM

  6. This haterosexual judge is purposefully blocking the release of the signatures so no one can challenge the voter fraud and the acceptance of tens of thousands of illegal signatures. It's a purposeful act to make sure this referendum gets on the ballot.

    APPROVE Referendum 71. Gay couples deserve the exact rights heterosexual couples have.

    Posted by: Bill | Sep 11, 2009 11:21:30 AM

  7. I watched the telecast of the entire proceeding before the Public Disclosure Commission two weeks ago. All I can say, in light of what testimony was given, is that this decision is positively ludicrous.

    The sum total of "harassment" detailed by the petitioners amounted to two phone calls from the same cranky person. In other words, a single pissed off pro-71 caller. No physical threats or harm were detailed, no groups showed up at their church, nothing. I kept waiting for them to drop the other shoe, something like "A bunch of fags showed up at my work and threw pink paint on me." Anything to demonstrate actual, substantive harassment. If they'd have come up with it I would have been sympathetic. But they had absolutely nothing!

    It's no wonder the PDC told them to take a hike.

    "Activist judges," indeed. But I guess if it's your "activist judge" that makes it okay.

    I really hope this is appealed. The law should protect people from legitimate threats, but these people are as illegitimate as they come.

    Posted by: Bill | Sep 11, 2009 11:36:03 AM

  8. The case for appealing for release of the signers' names might be bolstered if a news organization joined in the suit. Pitting the public's right to know against the haters' attempt to hide their bigotry may yield a different outcome.

    Posted by: Peter | Sep 11, 2009 11:48:03 AM

  9. Hmmm. Funny that it's ok for the masses to oppress the minority, but somehow the masses need protection from the minority.

    Posted by: jakeinlove | Sep 11, 2009 1:44:40 PM

  10. Funny how so many Americans (including some judges) don't seem to understand what the first amendment is all about.

    It's about having the lawful right to say anything you want. But it's not about to be able to do it and be protected from all consequences. Would he have ruled the same way if the referendum had been racist?

    Even if the names were to be made public, there would be no physical obstacle in the way of the signers' first amendment rights. It's just that people who hate bigots would know who discriminate against in turn.

    And that's what it all comes down to: Protecting the bigots from the people who hate them.

    Posted by: Philip Wester | Sep 12, 2009 7:25:41 AM

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