Breaking: Supreme Court Demands Release of Referendum 71’s Signatories

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.

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  • Ty

    This is great news for all of us! Oh, happy day! :)

  • Cam

    I’m sure that NOM in Maine is terrified.

  • Republican

    While a good decision overall, the Court did explicitly leave open the possibility of the anti-gay group going back to the lower courts and getting anonymity in a narrower challenge. Unfortunately, I expect the homophobes to attempt to do just that, so this isn’t over.

  • Eminent Victorian

    I am happy with this outcome. As a WA resident and tax payer, I thought it was especially important for us to know who signed the petition not so such people could be harassed but because we have a right to know if such people run businesses here that, armed with the info, we could avoid.

  • Bill Perdue

    See, the conservatives and liberals are right for once. The Supremes have some value. Not much, but some.

  • JonJon

    Can’t wait to put up a sign in my hard with an arrow pointing to the neighbor: HATE MONGER CHRISTIAN DOUCHEBAG!

  • Wade MacMorrighan

    Fabulous news! I wonder if this is poor news for NOM who want to keep their books secret as well, providing that they haven’t already COOKED them!!!

  • Rick Brannon

    “jock nod” HAHAHAHA.

    That’s awesome.

  • J. Clarence

    I can’t help but feel as if Justice Thomas is just trying to find the cheapest way to just side with Protect Marriage on this. The people that signed the petition surrendered any privacy when they chose to sign a public petition, when you choose to do so you have to accept the good and bad consequences that come with out. It is an assumed risk, and if you take away that risk the act itself becomes less meaningful.

    But then again, this the Justice that presided over Rush Limbaugh’s wedding, and his wife is a avid Tea Party fan, so I’m really surprised.

  • spiritedrandy

    Comment #3 had it right: what the court said was that revealing names does not automatically infringe on 1st Amendment rights, but could be applied to infringe on those rights.

    It looked like, however, in concurrences and dissents, that five of the Justices signaled their likely views on such an “as applied” challenge:

    Justices Thomas and Alito likely will view revealing names as violating 1st Amendment.

    Justices Stevens, Breyer, and Scalia (who says “I doubt whether signing a petition that has the effect of suspending a law fits within “the freedom of speech” at all.”) are skeptical as to an as applied challenge ever working.

    Unfortunately, Stevens won’t be on the court, so you have five Justices in play, including (likely) Kagan. However, with one of the conservatives (Scalia) having split from the anti-revealing position, and Kennedy (who is mostly pro-gay rights) in play, I think the anti-gay petition names will eventually come out. (No pun intended.)

    Ironically, Scalia and Thomas each took the most doctrinaire positions and came out opposite ways.

    Of course, you get what you pay for, and here you have the free views of an antitrust lawyer! So don’t bet money!

  • jason

    Exactly right, Queerty. When a person takes an action that denies equal rights to another citizen, that person needs to be named.

  • B

    No. 6 · JonJon wrote, “Can’t wait to put up a sign in my hard with an arrow pointing to the neighbor: HATE MONGER CHRISTIAN DOUCHEBAG!”

    But first make sure your neighbor really is a “hate-monger” and not someone who didn’t really know what he was signing. You know, a signature-gatherer tells him, “it’s an initiative to protect families” and some guy not really following politics, a bit distracted because his 4 year old and 5 year old are pulling each other’s hair and otherwise “acting up”, signs it without bothering to get the details.

    It’s important not to overreact and piss off people who make an innocent mistake and who (if they knew the full details) would vote in your favor.

  • Mudduck

    The signature-gathering procedures for these anti-gay initiatives are highly suspect. Publicizing the names will allow people to protest who were told they were signing for something different. I think the opposition to revealing the signatures has a lot to do with the large numbers of wrongfully gathered ones.

    Revealing donors of money in other contests is different — people who gave money probably knew what they were doing. People who had petitions thrust at them in a mall may well have been lied to.

  • Ron

    Hmmm…Clarence Thomas didnt seem so concerned about privacy rights in his vote against Lawrence in Lawrence v. Texas. Dont ya just love the picking and choosing of what law you want to use and what issue you think it’s appropriate for instead of it applying to EVERYONE!

  • ChrisM

    There is a lesson here – if you honestly support (or oppose) something you shouldn’t fear having your name attached. If you’re stupid enough to be signing petitions without fully reading what you’ve signed than you deserve whatever public ridicule you have brought upon yourself. If you knew what you were signing than be man (or woman) enough to stand up and defend your position.

  • slobone

    Not quite sure why everybody is so jubilant, since this cuts both ways. If somebody wants to put a PRO-gay initiative on the ballot, people might now be equally afraid to sign the petition for fear their neighbors will think they’re gay. Or whatever.

    In fact the only reason I can think of for a gay person to be celebrating is that now you can launch vindictive boycotts against business owners who (as private citizens) signed the petition. Well, knock yourselves out. These boycotts never do much or last very long…

  • PopSnap

    Good. I don’t know why these people are so afraid. Isn’t what they did God’s will? Why are they ashamed of what they signed up for & supported? I’m no sissy. I tell everybody who asks what I believe in, what I support & don’t support, ect.

    Poor bigoted cowards.
    Tease a dog enough and it just might bite back.

  • jason


    Spot on about Clarence Thomas’s moral inconsistency. He certainly didn’t think privacy rights trump political/legal harassment of gay people in the Lawrence vs Texas sodomy case.

    Perhaps this illustrates perfectly the agenda of Clarence Thomas. Cherry-picking Clarence might want to go and pick some cotton instead.

  • GayGOP

    @Ron: Not quite. Read his dissent in Lawrence. Justice Thomas generally holds to the view that there is no fundamental right to sex or procreation in the Constitution, but that the Constitution protects, explicitly, the right to engage in free speech. Thus, this is more the fact that Clarence Thomas, rightly or wrongly, views the Constitution as protecting only those things explicitly in the Constitution.

  • jason

    The Constitution is a broadly written document. It reflects the fact that no document can possibly cover every single behavior known to mankind.

    Clarence Thomas simply interprets the broadness according to his own personal beliefs. If one is homophobic, one interprets accordingly.

  • Ron

    Actually, it is quite. When the majority of the Supreme Court ruled to overturn the sodomy ban (Bowers v. Harwick ) they did so based on the right to privacy. Those who dissented (which included Thomas) never even mentioned the privacy issue. Actually Thomas didn’t say anything (and he rarely does, which everyone in the legal world knows) regarding the Lawrence issue for it was Scalia who wrote the dissenting opinion based on states should be able to make a moral judgment against homosexual conduct and have that enforced through law. This is not my opinion, this is stated fact that anyone can read.

    So, my point stands. Thomas did NOT seem concerned about the right to privacy then and if so he would have mentioned it either way. But now he does seem to be concerned about it –when it is convenient for his argument that is clearly not applicable to EVERYONE! Please go read the opinion.

  • Bill Perdue

    The Supremes are as political as the WH and Congress so the question we have to answer is what will make them jump.

    To the extent that we can build a massive movement to put pressure on them we’ll see victories, and it really doesn’t matter how byzantine or contradictory their rulings are as long as they cave in to our pressure instead of the christer bigots.

    The big problem we have to overcome by mass actions and direct actions is that the Supremes, Obama and the Congress habitually pander to christian bigots. It’s become a strategy for them.

    A Republican will call you a queer, faggot, dyke or tranny to your face and then sneer.

    A Democrat, on the other hand, will wait until you leave the room, sneer, and then call you a queer, faggot, dyke or tranny.

    Vote against the Democrats on Tuesday, November 2nd. Or just don’t vote.

    Vote against the Republicans on Tuesday, November 2nd. Or just don’t vote

  • smitt

    @J. Clarence:
    Justice Thomas did not do Limbaugh’s wedding. Hutch, former football player and current preacher did.

  • tavdy79

    Only Clarence Thomas voted to keep the names secret. He says a citizen’s privacy rights trump transparency in politics.

    WTF planet does Justice Clarence live on? Opaque democracy (which is what he’s advocating) isn’t democracy at all – it’s the first step on the road to tyranny. If the actions of those involved in the legislative process are hidden from voters, they cannot be held accountable for those actions.

  • whatever

    @smitt: Uh, learn to google. Rush was married multiple times and Thomas officiated one of his marriages not the most recent one.

  • whatever

    @slobone: lol conservative trash comes trolling. you becktards are all about boycotts when your that clown gets you morons riled up over the outrage du jour.

  • Mykelb

    This article is a FAIL. The SCOTUS only ruled on part I of the complaint, that referendums (in general) must be transparent as they are legislating from the ballot box. Part II of the complaint actually has been sent back to the lower court to decide on this specific R71. The Doe plaintiffs originally asked that the Public Records Act be found unconstitutional at 2 levels: across the board for all referendum petitions everywhere (Count I) and with regards to the specifics of the r-71 petition (Count II). Since the federal district court never bothered to rule on Count II, the only question before the SC was the general one about all referendum petitions everywhere, Count I. They couldn’t rule on Count II because there hasn’t been a trial to determine the relevant fact yet. It was fair that the SC sent Count II back to the federal district judge so that the facts can be properly evaluated by the lower court.


    First time ever I am pretty damm happy to see hate rear it’s ugly head……..

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