The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 today that, despite “threats” of violence and antagonism, Washington State’s residents who lent their names to put Referendum 71 on the ballot, which let voters choose to uphold the state’s “everything but marriage” law, must let their identities be know. Disclosing them does not violate the 138,000 petitioners’ First Amendment rights, the justices ruled, updating their decision to stay the Ninth Circuit’s ruling to make the names public.
The Court’s ruling in Doe v. Reed is the latest blow for Protect Marriage Washington, which organized the signature drive to get Ref 71 on the ballot — only to see voters uphold Washington State’s domestic partnership law. (State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who took heat for opposing taxpayer-funded sex change operations, gets a jock nod for successfully arguing the case.)
Only Clarence Thomas voted to keep the names secret. He says a citizen’s privacy rights trump transparency in politics.
But it’s not just Washington’s gay foes that will see the consequences of the ruling; it “could have far-reaching impacts, not just on the state’s initiative and referendum process, but also for other “open government” laws like the disclosure of who contributes to political campaigns, and how much they give,” notes the Seattle Post Intelligencer.
In the immediate, however, it’s a definitive message that knocks down the silly and irresponsible arguments from opponents of gay marriage, who say democracy should happen in secret. No longer will these individuals be able to deny rights to Americans without being held publicly accountable. This is a good decision. This is a good day.