Joe Mirabella

Referendum 71 petition signatures should remain public

Filed By Joe Mirabella | January 05, 2010 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Doe vs Reed, petitions, protect marriage washington, ref 71, referendum 71, supreme court, Washington, Washington State

This is part 1 of a 3 part series discussing the pending Supreme Court case that will decide the future of our petition gathering process in Washington, and the push by anti-equality forces to operate in secrecy nationwide.

The US Supreme Court will meet on January 15th to decide whether to hear Doe v. Reed. This is the culmination of a lawsuit first filed this summer by those who promoted Referendum 71 with the failed hope that voters would repeal our state's domestic partnership law. Six months later they are still trying to keep their petition signatures secret. They want to change Washington State's public disclosure laws so they can work under a hooded cloak of anonymity while they attempt to keep families who do not look like theirs from having legal protections and rights under the law. A decision will likely be announced the following Tuesday whether they intend to hear the case.

The State of Washington and Washington Families Standing Together are defending the right of the public to have a transparent and accountable petition process and asking the Supreme Court to let the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirming the public disclosure law stand.

Protect Marriage Washington and their national ally National Organization for Marriage claim that their supporters will be in danger if their names are made public as all petition signers names have been in our state, a danger that only seems to exist in the imaginations of those seeking secrecy. No physical harm has come to anyone who has signed a petition. We've had initiatives in this state for reproductive choice, death with dignity, land use policy, affirmative action - many important social and public policy issues where people have strong disagreement. That is what the democratic process is all about.

The irony in this case is striking. These same groups and individuals demanding secrecy have fought for years against laws that would protect LGBT individuals from very real harm - from bullying in school to hate crimes. Despite these real threats to our physical safety, we live our lives openly because we've learned hiding in the closet does no one any good. And here we have the forces of intolerance wanting to do just that.

Initiative and referenda petitions should remain public. No one who signs a petition to place a measure on the ballot ever assumes their names are going to be private. They sign their names in public places, at grocery stores, shopping malls and picnics. They review petition sheets before they sign that have dozens of other names already on them.

People regularly sign their name to lists in public. Social networking has made our political views more public than ever. It is difficult to argue, as PMW has, that publicity inhibits the expression of political speech. The Approve 71 Facebook Page during the campaign attracted over 40,000 followers in six weeks. People regularly posted their personal stories and expressed their wish for the law to be retained. Opponents too attempted to use social networking for their campaign. A group asking for the rejection of Referendum 71 attracted about 900 people who were more than willing to express their opinion in full public view of anyone in cyberspace.

Protect Marriage Washington also held several public rallies where volunteers marched up and down busy streets carrying their reject 71 signs. At most of the rallies parents brought their children. If they truly believed they were in danger, would they parade their children in public?

The petition process in Washington turns our citizens into legislators. It gives them the opportunity to change the laws that we all live under. We would not want our legislators in Olympia acting anonymously. Could you imagine if we never knew how our representatives voted? How would they be held accountable?

It is imperative that the Supreme Court let the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stand so we can preserve our transparent and open government. The Supreme Court should not bow to the will of anti-equality forces who need secrecy not because they may be harmed, but because their agenda is shameful.

This lawsuit is not an isolated incident. Tomorrow, in part two of this three part series, I will discuss the national trend by anti-equality forces to operate in secrecy.

Cross-posted at the Seattle PI


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They shouldn' be a'tellin whose names bin put on th' petishuns; cause they're godly peoples, thiefs that come in th' night.

Isn't it amazing how so many people feel they have the right to be homophobic, but don't want anyone to know about it?

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | January 6, 2010 9:10 AM

You know, if one is afraid of having one's position on policy made public, then I find it curious that one would take such a position. If you don't want people to know that you're a bigoted asshole, hey, don't be a bigoted asshole, then there's no problem. Simple, eh?