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Ninth Circuit refuses to block release of names on Washington domestic partnership petition

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday denied a request [opinion, PDF] to block the release of names on Washington state petitions for Referendum 71 (R-71) opposing domestic partnerships. Last month, the Washington secretary of state began to release the names [JURIST report] after a federal judge lifted an injunction against their release. The release was halted [Seattle Times report] days later when an emergency motion was filed by a group concerned about backlash against signers of the petitions. On Wednesday, the appeals court decided the appeal was "moot due to the (previous) release of R-71 petitions and district court's order identifying the Doe plaintiffs" and that there is question of whether the plaintiff-appellants have "standing to bring this appeal on behalf of R-71 petition signers." Protect Marriage Washington [advocacy website], the group bringing the suit, has filed a notice of appeal with the court.

In 2009 the Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction against release of the names, but in 2010 it decided [JURIST reports] release of the names was not a violation of the First Amendment. Referendum 71 [summary] was passed in 2009 by Washington voters, affirming approval of Senate Bill 5688 [text], to give domestic partnerships the same legal rights as married couples. It was put on the ballot by Protect Marriage Washington in a failed attempt to vote down Senate Bill 5688. Many opposing groups filed for release [AG website] of the names on the petitions, causing Protect Marriage Washington to file the ensuing lawsuits to protect signers' identities.

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