Justice Kennedy Intervenes, Keeping Names of R-71 Signers Private

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has stepped in to stop Washington state officials from making public the names of signers of the petition to place Referendum 71, the measure which puts the state's "everything but marriage" domestic partnership law before voters, on the ballot in November.

The AP reports: Kennedy "Kennedy's ruling Monday temporarily blocks a federal appeals court
ruling last week
that ordered the release of the names. Kennedy said
his order would remain in effect while he considers a request by a
pro-marriage group that asked him to reverse the appeals court ruling…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…The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Settle's decision last
. 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."

A written response from state officials was requested by Kennedy today.


  1. EchoMark says

    The headline and lead paragraph are incorrect. This case deals with revealing the names of people who signed the petition to get it on the ballot, not the names of people who are donating money to help get it passed.

    Not sure what to make of Kennedy’s interjection here.

  2. Steve says

    This seems to be so cut and dried for me, a non-bar member without any legal training other than having read our highest law, the Constitution.

    It seems to me that people have a right to express themselves, and one way to do that is to sign petitions and to donate to organizations they support. In that same token, we have a right to legally confront our accusers in actions such as this. It seems to me that every person who signs a petition (regardless of the side they are on) is an accuser and therefor we have a right to know who they are and confront them.

    I hope this doesn’t get overturned. It’ll help end the hypocritical actions of many people and expose just who our gay dollars should go to and who we can trust.

  3. Steve says

    Re-reading my last comment (wish I could edit it) I need to clarify something. I WANT the names to be released. Judge Kennedy should be overturned, and the original ruling upheld.

  4. mcsaint says

    Homophobia is the NEW CLOSET! Homophobics – come out be proud, I mean this is a moral conviction for you right? So why the closet??

  5. alguien says

    i was always of the mind that if we sign petitions that deal with public policy, it renders our signatures…public.

  6. says

    More specifically, when you sign a petition for a referendum, you are taking on a legislative role. In a sense, you are deputizing yourself as part of the legislature. For this reason, it is different than voting and these new “legislators” should be known.

  7. Chris In AK says

    I agree the headline is misleading. It should include the word “temporarily” in there somewhere.

  8. Jon B says

    Am I the only one who finds it abhorent that the AP would use the wording “pro-marriage” to describe homophobic asshats who stand for inequality? Pro-traditional marriage would be one thing, but pro-marriage? I’m fairly certain WE are the ones that are pro-marriage.

  9. Tyler says

    Don’t read too much into this about Justice Kennedy. This will almost certainly be lifted after he gets the arguments. He undoubtedly took this unusual action because once the names are released there is no remedy and the case is essentially moot. The Supremes will probably stay out of this and the Court of Appeals’s ruling will almost certainly stand (though it may be reheard en banc by the Ninth Circuit).

  10. Jon B says

    @Tyler: I agree for the most part with everything you said. However, I think there’s a really good argument that the cases wouldn’t be mooted upon release of names because it would fall into the category of cases that evade review yet are capable of repetition. Which means that the SCOTUS could review it after the fact regardless.

  11. says

    @ Jon B: I had exactly the same reaction.
    They’re not “pro-marriage”
    They’re anti-marriage-equality.
    It may be a quotation from Kennedy, though, which shows he’s bought their propaganda, alas!

  12. GrabbinNewscum says

    I hope the names aren’t released. I agree that it would chill free speech.

    Wait until the day when some anti-gay group wants the names publicized of people who signed a petition to have a pro-gay marriage law put on the books – and then those signers are sent harassing and threatening letters with white powder in them which was done to some Mormons after Prop 8 passed.

  13. me says

    wow, when i read pro-marriage i just assumed it meant pro-gay-marriage. i should have read more closely.

  14. Blago says

    I wouldn’t think too much of this. For example, Scalia sometimes has to order a temporary stay of an execution so that a court can hear a habeas issue — even though God knows Scalia is not sympathetic to prisoners.

  15. RecoveringTexan says

    I live in WA and have worked to have items placed on the ballot. All were initiatives (i.e. legislation initiated by the voters) and not referenda (i.e., legislation already passed and being referred back to the voters for approval/disapproval). Nevertheless, the petitions are the same in format, I believe.

    Never have I signed a petition or gathered signatures with any expectation that it was “private.” With 50-100 signatures or so per petition, how could anyone sign and expect that other signers don’t see who else signed?

    Many argue the only reason for release of these is to fuel payback. Not true.

    There are plenty of good reasons for wanting the names released (or, better yet, scanned copies of the documents) on this occasion, not the least of which were multiple instances of the Secretary of State (Sam Reed, Republican) lowering the bar for accepting petitions. In fact, he argued that it should be lowered and the issue placed before the electorate to decide. I would argue that in the case of voting for civil rights, any moving of the bar should be in favor of those who stand to lose those rights.

    Here we have a case where we can vote on civil rights and have them removed by a simple majority, yet some taxes here require a super-majority. So the implication is clear: money matters more than rights.

    Among the “lowered bar” were the following irregularities:

    1) Over 2000 petitions turned in without gatherers certification signature. (As a past signature gatherer, I would never have dreamed I could turn in a petition without my signature and expect it to be accepted.)

    2) Multiple passes to verify that a signature was deemed valid but no such multiple passes for one deemed valid the first pass,

    3) Multiple instances of apparent fraud on the presentation by the signature gatherers,

    4) Acceptance of signatures of people who were not registered to vote during the time the signatures were being gathered. They registered after the fact.

    The signatures should be released.

  16. Jon B says

    I’m still not over the “pro-marriage” language. Can we make a fuss and force the AP to apologize for it? Anyone with me?

  17. MrRoboto says

    Given so many of the signature-gathering shenanigans we heard about, signers should appreciate the chance that their names are released. Gives them a chance to say, “They told me I was signing something else. I didn’t know I was signing to take someone’s rights away.”

  18. Philip Wester says

    Only in America would idiots manage to hijack the court system with “First amendment!” cries in order to make secret the names of people signing PUBLIC petitons.

    Also, he’s “pro-marriage”? Well, then, OF COURSE he’s an idiot!

  19. Chris says

    PEOPLE – why did Justice Kennedy TEMPORARILY block the lower court’s decision?

    Because if he didn’t, then the names would be released, because the lower court ordered them to be released, and the decision regarding whether it was constitutionally prohibited to release the names would be irrelevant. Because the names would have already been released.

    This temporary order has nothing to do with the merits of the case or with Justice Kennedy’s position on it or gay marriage.


  20. RecoveringTexan says

    Kennedy’s actions notwithstanding, neither this case (regarding the release of signers’ names to the petitions for placing the referendum before the electorate) nor the actual referendum is or was ever about gay marriage.

    The law as passed was about domestic partnerships and their rights and extended to, as Carrie Prejean would say, “opposite-sex” partners since it includes straight relationships where one partner is over the age of 62.

    Who knows what Kennedy’s views are on the merits of the case or domestic partnerships or gay marriage? I don’t. My only data point was that he was the surprising swing vote in striking down the infamous Texas statute against “homosexual sodomy.”

    We’ll see what happens.

  21. mike says

    Isn’t it also true that for your signature on a petition to be valid, you have to be a registered voter? Regardless, I have signed many a petition in my life and I have always assumed that by signing I was allowing my signature to be public. I have no fear in standing up for what I believe in so I don’t get all those homophobic cowards trying to keep their names a secret. If you have the effrontery to try and take away my civil rights, then you had better have the cojones to show your goddam face to me.

  22. DR says

    And what a surprise, it’s been referred to the entire panel to determine whether the SCt will hear the merits of the case. This is why the names will not be released; if the Court finds there is a valid reason to protect them, you can’t undo the release. They do have to protect the Defendants in this case, at least until a decision is made.

    Chill, people, Kennedy wrote a brilliant opinion on gay rights in 2003, he is most certainly a friend and advocate.