This is part 3 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. In part 1 I argued that Referendum 71 petition signatures should remain public. In part 2 I proposed that the reason anti-equality forces want to remain private is because their philosophy is shameful.
It is important to remember exactly why we got to this point. Protect Marriage Washington brought their lawsuit against the State of Washington to keep petition signatures private shortly after Know Thy Neighbor announced their intent to create an online database of petition signers called whosigned.org.
The PAC representing hundreds of coalition partners, and over 6,000 couples protected by the Domestic Partnership law, Washington Families Standing Together, immediately opposed whosigned.org. I agreed with their decision then, and I remain opposed to whosigned.org.
Know Thy Neighbor's actions threatened our otherwise positive campaign about our families. The idea did not sit well with Washington voters, and it continues to upset them. You need to look no further than the comment section of Part 1 of this series on the Seattle PI to see what I'm talking about.
Whosigned.org was a misguided stunt by two people who think they are helping the LGBT community. In reality they are hurting our otherwise strong reputation for being good friends and neighbors.
Whosigned.org fed our opponents the necessary juice to launch their lawsuit and further their goal for a closed government. Our opponents turned an online database into a life threatening situation, which is simply outrageous. Our state has had a public record of petition signatures for over 30 years, and no one has ever been harmed by that process.
We can all acknowledge that whosigned.org is bad idea because the tone and tenor does not fit with the political traditions of our great state, but this is not enough of a reason to create a closed Government. Closed and secretive governments breed tyranny.
There are examples throughout history and our global governments that overwhelmingly demonstrate the dangers of secrecy.
Secrecy and Totalitarianism
In Iran, gay people are tried in private and can be executed for how they were born. In Saudi Arabia, trials are conducted in private and gay people are regularly executed. In North Korea, their government operates in secret and people are routinely rounded up, tortured, and executed without a fair trial. In China, people are arrested, tried privately, and executed for a wide range of human rights we take for granted.
These totalitarian governments exist because they conduct their business in secret. It is only because of the work of brave journalists, expatriates, and human rights organizations that we have the information we do about these places and others.
If their governments were open and democratic, these human rights atrocities would ultimately vanquish. Our opponent's push for a secret legislative process operated by the masses should terrify us all. Who knows what human right will be on the chopping block next? What punishments might they impose?
Our opponents have a long list of fundamentalist goals that if implemented would intrude into the most private aspects of our lives. They want to govern everything from the movies we can watch, the books we can read, a woman's right to govern her body, a straight couple's right to divorce, and how we die. There is no end in sight for their willingness to intrude their fundamentalist and medieval ideology into every aspect of our lives.
The irony is clear. They are obsessed with their own privacy, and yet want to intrude into areas of your life that they have absolutely no right to govern.
Their desire for a private government is essential to accomplish their goals, because publicity squashes tyranny.
Our Dirty Laundry
Unquestionably, secrecy breeds corruption, fraud, and tyranny. In the United States we have a dark history of groups trying to act in secret to repress the rights of others.
Most notably, the KKK met in private, wore hooded masks, and terrorized the African American Community and their allies.
People who should otherwise be respected members of society like doctors, lawyers and judges were able perform acts of terrorism and murder without consequence.
The KKK's ability to operate in secret corrupted our court systems, police departments, schools, local governments and state governments. Their reach was pervasive and destructive. Those who were targeted had nowhere to turn for justice, other than the public eye.
As journalists from the north began to broadcast the terrorism in the South, good people of all races stood up for the African American community. The KKK would have loved for their terrorism to persist in secret. They might even still be powerful today without public scrutiny.
Shameful behavior thrives in private and leads to tyranny and terrorism.
Learn From History or It Will Repeat Itself
It is not at all a stretch to link our current anti-civil rights foes to our country's shameful past. Gary Randell, head of the Faith and Freedom Network and the instigator behind the push to repeal the domestic partnership law in Washington, has absolutely no problem referencing known white supremacy groups as legitimate sources of information in his own blogs.
Randell is not alone. Tony Perkins from the anti-equality Family Research Council is also known to associate with white supremacy groups. According to Pam's House Blend, he was twice a guest speaker at the known hate group, Council of Conservative Citizens.
Tony Perkins is pictured here in the CCC's news letter with the groups leader as he delivered his speech.
According to the Boston Globe:
The [Southern Poverty Law Center] SPLC characterizes the CCC as a "white nationalist" organization, and has reported that the group is "the reincarnation of the racist White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s." The CCC declares in its statement of principles:
We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.
It is clear that our opponents are trying to force our country back to the 1950s and 60s when hate ruled, and secrecy was the norm. Anyone who does not look like them is a target.
We should not let the actions of a few misguided members of our community force our government back to the past when secrecy allowed domestic terrorism to flourish. We would be playing directly into the hands of those who wish to oppress us all. Our opponents may no longer parade around in hooded capes, but they certainly hope the courts will give them the opportunity to operate secretly once again. If the courts grant their wish, the consequences are far greater for democracy than if we let the status quo prevail.
Petition signatures are a form of legislation. They must remain accessible to the public. An open government at all levels is the only way democracy will continue to flourish in our country, and throughout the world.