If We Demand the Names of Our Opponents, Should They Get Our Names Too?


We’re big fans of transparency, especially in the public sector. When it comes to those who donated cash to the Yes On 8 effort in California, we backed the effort to abide by the law and release those names to the public. But in Seattle, state employees find themselves trying to protect their own names when it comes to one man’s demands which staffers belong to a gay employee organization.


The situation began when 58-year-old Philip Irvin (pictured) — a senior power analyst for Seattle City Light who professes his heterosexuality and whiteness, and is known to crash gay-themed events — demanded in court to know the names of “anyone who has either attended, or received e-mails to attend, meetings of a city-sponsored affinity group at Seattle Public Utilities — the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Transexual (LGBT), Questioning Employees and Friends group (LGBT QEF).” His obvious bias aside, his argument goes like this: We’ve got state employees using state facilities (read: taxpayer-funded) to meet and organize, and the public should be able to know who these folks are.

LGBT QEF isn’t the only grouping of state employees that does this; it is one of a dozen or so collectives, including other minority-based groups. The affinity organizations “have access to city resources, including e-mail, meeting space and limited funding for training, seminars and hosting speakers.”


The Seattle City Attorney’s Office agrees with Irvin, and argued in court that Irvin is entitled the the data. LGBT QEF, meanwhile, moved to block the release of the names, claiming privacy rights; they argue releasing the names will out state employees. On the books, meanwhile, are anti-discrimination laws that includes sexual orientation.

For now, LGBT QEF members’ identities are safe; a judge just ordered a temporary block on releasing the the names, though other documents will be made available Monday. Another hearing will be held.

And while Irvin’s intentions here are clearly vile — he’s anti-gay, yet wants to be able to see if he’s eligible to attend, and even run for office in the group — he raises a good point: If we demand the right to know the names of our so-called opponents who operate in the public sector and utilize taxpayer funds, shouldn’t Irvin have that same right?

“I’m going to exercise my right to be treated equally,” says Irvin, and “not as a second-class citizen because I’m not in line with the gay agenda.”

Meanwhile, the debate is especially sensitive in Washington State, where an effort to repeal Washington’s domestic partnerships law is underway. If Referendum 71 makes it in front of voters, the rights could be repealed — and gay rights advocates have pounced, insisting they will publish online the names of anyone who signs a petition to bring 71 to a vote.

Should we afford folks like Irvin the same courtesy? Or does LGBT QEF represent an exception to the rule?: It’s taxpayer-funded, sure, but it should be treated with the anonymity of an AA meeting.

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  • Cam

    Well technically there is a difference between asking for the names of people who have donated publically to a voter sponsored initiative and who has attended meetings of an affinity group.

  • jamesn

    Let’s see. Government employees who use taxpayer money to meet and organize. Yep, you have to release the names, no matter who they’re sleeping with.

    Furthermore, I’d suggest that any members of a group that meets on public property has abandoned any expectation of privacy they might have had.

  • timncguy

    you didn’t just equate sexual orientation to alcoholism, did you?

    That’s a dangerous moveon your part.

  • galefan2004

    They need to stand up and be counted. They need to get out of their closets and into their lives. I don’t see any problem with releasing their names. The state law says they can’t be fired for being gay, so they need to just admit who and what they are to the entire state.

  • John Santos

    Irving doesn’t want the where and when–he has already been given that by the gay org’s lawyer. What this anti-gay CHristian wants is names–the names of Seattle queers employed by the city so that he may harrass them.

  • Gary

    These aren’t State employees.

    Public disclosure laws in WA State require transparency in regards to voter initiatives.

    Irvin want’s the names of the group so he can harass the members with “ex-gay” propaganda & biblical confrontations, so then he can sue the city. it’s his pattern.

    There are many, many groups Irvin could have chosen to target. He’s been pulling this kind of BS in Seattle for years.

    That said, I personally don’t think ANY of the affinity groups should be funded by City Light for exactly the can of worms this situation has created. The meeting rooms involved are public access to almost any group on a reserved basis. Do we want the names, address, phone numbers and emails of all those attendees as well?

    Yep, Irvin has found a loophole and has already cost the city dearly with frivolous legal fees, but what he wants is a confrontation (verbal or physical) whereupon he can sue for monetary damages.

  • John Santos

    It turns out this douchebag ia an “ex-gay” who has been harrassing Seattle’s queers for over 20 years.

  • Brian Miller

    The data must be released.

    However, that doesn’t give the guy demanding the release a right to harass the attendees.

    Further, it’s a bit silly to attempt to argue in 2009 that everyone who attends a gay pride event must be gay. Heck, I’ve been to gay-themed or gay-oriented events where most attendees were heterosexual!

  • Rudy

    @jamesn: I don’t know how things function in your town, but all kinds of groups meet in buildings owned by my city from garden clubs to political organizations. There are also events by private froups and nonprofits and parks, etc. I’m sure at least some of these involve city employees.
    The notion that you surrender all privacy rights because you are using a public facility is not to be found in any law here.
    On the other hand, does signing a political petition carry an expectation of privacy?
    Any petition I’ve ever signed, I could plainly see the names and addresses of others, so the anszwer is “no.”

  • reluctant commenter

    If you check the link in John Santos’ comment, the author of the linked article makes a compelling point that the two situations being compared are very different. The petition has direct legal ramifications and is inherently public information. The affinity group member list? …Not so much.

  • John Santos

    Well, a judge ordered that certain documents be turned over, but with the names of members redacted. Another trial will take place in September. Now Irvine is claiming the gay mafia is “persecuating” him:

    It’s become clear that the city of Seattle will throw their gay employees to the dogs, in order to avoid being sued by Irvine–something he has successfully done in the past.

  • John Santos

    Here’s another link with this bit of absurdity from Irvine:

    “On Thursday, I was told the city is investigating me for misuse of city resources,” Irvin told Erlick. “There’s a secret gay organization in the city government that’s trying to slit my throat.”


  • John Santos

    Here’s the link:

    And another interesting bit of info that show how low that sack of shit will go:

    On several occasions, Irvin has attempted to join or become involved in numerous city-affiliated activities aimed at gay or minority employees. Among other allegations, he asserts in court filings that a dance for gay and lesbian youth was canceled when he volunteered to chaperon and was barred from attending a LGBT event when he attempted to attend with a supposedly formerly gay minister.

    Bothering adults isn’t enough, he has to go after kids too.

  • John Santos

    And here is why Irvine really wants those names:

    He also said he intends to attend the group’s meetings, and will use the identifying information in a civil rights complaint should he be barred from doing so.

  • John Santos

    Like peeling layers off an onion:

    Okay first of all I am a part of the LGBT group that blocked the names so let me answer a few of your questions.

    1. Only some of the people that attend have the ability to take paid time off to attend the meetings. Those are people that work for SPU because in an effort to increase involvement in affinity groups SPU offers that. The rest of the people who attend from other departments do it with no code to bill the meeting to. As a result the meetings are typically held during the traditional lunch hour from noon to 1.

    2. Phil Irvin hasn’t even attempted to attend this LGBT affinity group meeting. He was barred from SeaGLE and sued the city because of it and was awarded money for religious discrimination. The reason he was barred from that group was he came to the meeting and without being recognized by the chair produced a bible and started reading passages calling homosexuals an abomination. Now I don’t know about you but if I were in a group that was supposed to be for people that were supportive of Americans of African descent and started reading from a KKK Pamphlet I doubt it would be well received either. I also doubt that I would have been able to win a case on discrimination based on political ideology for that one either.

    3. Phil Irvin is part of the Black Employees Association because he sued them for race discrimination when they didn’t want to include information on some white anglo saxon protestant men that he brought to their black history month. And guess what he won and got a pay out from the city.

    4. The request for the names and the injunction to block them happened before the group announced their intent to release names of people that sign the petitions for R71. They are in no way related and there is no hive mind that could have alerted us that they intended to do that. Also this months Abercrombie and Fitch catalog didn’t have my decoder ring or any secret message hidden in miniscule print in the abs of their models. Most, if not all, of the people in the LGBT group are not supportive of the outing of people in general be that in our group or on a petition.

    5. If you want an idea of just how crazy Irvin is read the brief that he submitted to Judge Erlick with his reason for wanting to obtain the names where he alleges that we are watching porn and having sex on the company dime. First off the lesbians and the gay men could never agree on which porn would be best to watch and it is a LGBT group. Second having sex at work gets you fired in almost any job you have unless having sex at work is your job.

  • Dieter

    sure this homophobic terrorist can join the meetings and run for office in this group…as soon as I as a gay man am forced to be allowed to do the same at a boy scouts organization….

    good news is that he looks to be like 80 years old and will be dead soon….

  • Sai

    Oh, if only we lived in your perfect world.
    While they can’t fire you because your gay, they CAN and DO fire you for some small and minute reason, because your gay. Employers use their bias when it comes to firing people and letting people go, even if they cover it up.
    Just pointing out that…

  • Steve

    @jamesn: The public records statutes in every state are full of details and exceptions.

    In CA, petitions to place amendments on ballots are public records and must be released. Names and addresses of undercover police officers are public record, but are protected from release to protect the safety of the officers. There are a lot of different categories in the grey area between those two extremes. Names of people who attend meetings may or may not be required to be released, depending on the nature of the meeting.

    This is not an easy decision for the judge. He will have to actually read the statute and hear the arguments.

  • Fitz

    You know, I am very out and proud in my life– but imagine how intimidating this must be to someone living in some central valley small farm town.

  • Joanaroo

    Doesn’t this asshole Irvin have anything better to do with his time than harrass people and enter frivolous lawsuits? Just like the AFA in Florida, he could use his spare time and money to help the poor, homeless, elderly, ill, etc. Just another wingnut religious idiot!

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