Saying that gay-rights opponents were never in danger, US District Court Judge Benjamin Settle handed down a ruling this morning that orders the state to release the names of over 100,000 voters who signed petitions for Referendum 71. Signers of R-71 were seeking to put the rights of same-sex partners to a vote in 2009.

Here is Judge Settle's 31-page order.

Christian activists behind the petition drive had claimed in Doe v. Reed—a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court—that making the names public (as all petitions are) would expose them to harassment and violence. Settle knocked down that argument, declaring in his judgement, "The facts before the Court in this case, however, do not rise to the level of demonstrating that a reasonable probability of threats, harassment, or reprisals exists as to the signers of R-71."

Anne Levinson, who chaired the campaign to uphold the partnership rights for gay couples, predictably declared the decision a "victory." Then she added this biting statement: “The irony should not go unnoticed that these right-wing groups promote divisive measures and then demand a special right to secrecy because the strong disagreement that follows makes them uncomfortable. Yet these same groups and individuals who say they may be harmed by the public having information about an election are never troubled that the very laws they try to get passed through these campaigns result in real harm to LGBT individuals and families."

A group called wanted to post the names and addresses of R-71 signers online, they said, in order to let people civilly confront anti-gay petition signers.

After reaching the Supreme Court, the case was kicked back down to the lower federal court, which issued today's ruling. Secretary of State's office spokesman Brian Zylstra did not know when the petitions would be released or if there was any further potential for appeal.