R-71 public records update: Release ban continues

R-71 public records update: Release ban continues

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle has ruled that Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed   will continue to be blocked from releasing Referendum 71 signatures while challengers mount a federal court case that aims to keep the 138,000 names under wraps permanently.

The judge, in a brief hearing in his courtroom in Tacoma on Wednesday, agreed to the Reed’s request for an expedited hearing schedule.

The challengers, Protect Marriage Washington, will release a list of its witnesses so the Attorney General and other backers of public release will be able to do discovery.  Both sides will then submit briefs and a trial will proceed as scheduled by the court, possibly in November.

Shane Hamlin, assistant state director of elections, said he was pleased that the court is putting the case on a fast track. The state did request permission to release petitions, but the judge rejected it, saying to release the petitions now would make the whole case moot.

Last September, Judge Settle approved Protect Marriage Washington’s initial request for the ban on releasing R-71 petitions, based on his view that release could violate signers’ First Amendment rights of anonymous free speech.  Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna appealed, asserting that no constitutional rights are abridged and that the voter-approved Public Records Act requires release of all records that have not been specifically exempted by the Legislature.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concurred, and overturned Settle. Protect Marriage Washington, represented by conservative legal activist James Bopp Jr., persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.  In an 8-1 ruling on June 24, the high court said that as a general proposition, disclosure of petitions does not violate the Constitution.  But the court also left open the option to challenge release of specific initiatives and referenda, giving sponsors a chance to assert that disclosure would lead to harassment or harm to signers. The court sent the Doe v. Reed case back to Judge Settle to consider such a challenge.

Our full R-71  federal case website is here.   The R-71 FAQs and other good background are here.  R-71, you may recall, was about whether voters wanted to approve or reject the state’s recently adopted “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law. The referendum was sponsored by Protect Marriage Washington, which wanted to overturn the law. Voters upheld the law by a 53-47 margin last November and the law took effect in December. Benefits accrue to state-registered domestic partners.

4 thoughts on “R-71 public records update: Release ban continues

  1. Keep the signatures private so nobody can check all the forged and duplicate names that made this petition get on the ballot. The whole process was rigged from the top to the bottom.

  2. If i knew what this r-71 was really about in the first place i wouldn’t of have voted for it. I voted based on the information I was told and was displeased that i ever voted for it. Do not support this initiative as I have found myself voting on what people say not not what i believe. We should never vote on our conscience, but rather on the facts. To this day I am still learning that, and the that this initiative was not worth my vote.

  3. I do not see what the problem is. I am sure that all the names are check for forged and duplicate names. Of course the whole system is rigged. R-71 was force on the ballet by people who are just looking for attaction. By the same people who have the same rights as every body else. By people who think they have specal rights because of thier choice in life style. How would they like it if someone demanded the list of names of all the people who sigh petition for thier homosexal life style. What about when you sigh the petition aganist higher taxes, that road project that you do not think should be built, the cut in funding for schools, telling the goverment they have to account for the money they tax us for or why you sign the petition against their candidate.
    All they are doing is opening a can of worms.

  4. For these documents no names should be provided. The idea that courts, congressmen, senators, business leaders, gay rights, PETA or any other person or group should have access to the records seems silly. It is just an attempt to bully people because they chose to disagree with someone and let the voters decide. Apparently the democratic process that made this country what it is today isn’t good enough.
    Either you make all the records available or none.

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