Federal judge releases names on Washington domestic partnership petition

Federal judge releases names on Washington domestic partnership petition

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[JURIST] The Washington Office of the Secretary of State [official website] on Monday released [press release] the names of 137,500 people who signed petitions for Referendum 71 (R-71), opposing domestic partnerships, after a federal judge lifted the injunction and granted summary judgment [opinion, PDF] to defendants. In Doe #1 v. Reed, the judge held that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that a reasonable probability of threats, harassment or reprisals exists as to the signers of R-71, now nearly two years after the vote [JURIST report] on R-71 in Washington state. The court held that the state’s important interest in disclosure under the Public Records Act (PRA) prevails under exacting scrutiny. The opinion states:

the Court finds that Doe’s as-applied challenge cannot meet the threshold required to obtain an as-applied exemption to the PRA in this case. Doe’s claim would also fail under the standards—if considered distinguishable from the applicable standards discussed above—articulated by a majority of the concurring Justices in the Supreme Court’s opinion in Doe.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, who supported disclosure of petitions under the state’s voter-approved PRA, was pleased with Judge Benjamin Settle’s opinion.

In June 2010, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] 8-1 in Doe #1 v. Reed [Cornell LII backgrounder] that the First Amendment [text] does not bar a state from releasing identifying information about petitioner signers where there is a sufficiently compelling state interest. The case arose over an order to publish the names of those who signed a Washington state petition to overturn a state law [JURIST report] giving same-sex partners the same rights as married partners. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the names should be released, but the Supreme Court issued a temporary stay [JURIST report] in October 2009.