Even though the Supreme Court ruled this morning that signatures on petitions for initiatives and referenda are public record, they didn't guarantee disclosure in every instance. And that's a good thing. We have plenty of examples, like during the Civil Rights movement in the South, where people had legitimate fear that publicizing their names would result in physical retribution.
After today's decision came down, Protect Marriage Washington, the campaign to put Referendum 71 on the ballot and take away gay rights, announced that it would argue that this is one of those select instances. R-71 signers would be the target of hate crimes, they say, and deserve a cloak of anonymity.
Gary Randall, one of the campaign leaders, wrote in an email to his followers, "I just finished a phone conference with our attorney James Bopp Jr. and we will be going to the lower court on count 2, seeking an exemption for R-71 petition signers only." They will take the case to a U.S. District court in Tacoma. "We see releasing the names as having a very chilling effect on citizen's exercise of free speech and participation in the initiative process. Particularly in those cases where threats have been made publicly toward those who signed," wrote Randall.
But their case is bullshit.
The people who signed Referendum 71 petitions(hateful Christian bigots trying to take away the rights of gay people) are not at risk for violent harassment. Ahem, gay people are the targets of hate crimes—remember?—they are, in fact, the victims of more and more hate crimes each year.
Not even conservatives agree with the bigots' logic point.
"We are going to argue that the petitioners have not brought forward nearly enough evidence to keep the the Referendum 71 petitions out of public view," said Republican AG Rob McKenna this morning. "For instance all of the campaign finance information has been public, donor information has been matter of public record. There was no evidence that any donor to the campaign suffered threats, harassment, or reprisals. ... If there were any such evidence it would have come out by now. So I think that those seeking to block release of the R-71 petitions have a steep hill to climb, a high standard to meet, and they just don't have the evidence to meet it."
Or take SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia's closing words in his concurrence. Scalia, who is ideologically far more aligned with the anti-gay factions, wrote: "There are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for self-governance. Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed."
Scalia here, I believe, is making clear that the R-71 signers are not at risk, if their names are released, of anything more than "harsh criticism." And if Scalia thinks these people are not at risk as victims of hate crimes, it's a strong indicator that the lower court will agree.
But now that the referendum was approved last November (upholding gay rights), this case has wound through the courts for more than six months, and the Supreme Court has weighed in, do folks still need to post all those names online? "Yes," says WhoSigned.Org founder Brian Murphy, who announced his plans last year to put the names in an online database, triggering this whole hubbub. "I think our role is to do what we have always been saying we would do. This transparency is terribly important for the integrity of the initiative process."