The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 to in favor of Washington State's Public disclosure laws allowing petition signatures to remain public. This was a significant case originating from the Referendum 71 campaign in Washington State.
Opponents to the Domestic Partnership law collected enough signatures to qualify Referendum 71 for the ballot. Once qualified, our opponents filed several lawsuits, including this one. They had two strategies: 1) they wanted to distract our campaign leadership from the important task of talking to Washington voters, and 2) they wanted to operate in a shroud of secrecy.
Legal scholars from throughout the country were watching this case very closely, because the future of public disclosure laws covering everything from citizen legislation to campaign finance laws were at stake.
And while we are very pleased about this ruling, Gary Randall of the Faith & Freedom Network told the Seattle P-Iin an e-mail that they intend to seek an exemption from this ruling from a lower court. Anne Levinson, Chairwoman for Washington Families Standing Together (the Approve 71 Campaign) released a statement. I later contacted her via e-mail about reasons our opponents have a terrible case for exemption.
From the statement released by Anne Levinson:
This 8-1 ruling by the highest court in the land is a significant defeat for those who have sought to enshrine discrimination into law at the ballot box. Nowhere is the integrity and transparency of elections more important than where the ballot box is being used in an attempt to take away fundamental rights. Nowhere is it more important for the public to know that attempts to affect the lives of their fellow citizens by promoting ballot measures are free from fraud and error. Perhaps no other group has witnessed its rights put up for public vote more than LGBT Americans. Social conservatives have used ballot measures in state after state, over more than 30 years, to keep LGBT Americans from being able to adopt children, to marry and even to be protected from discrimination in housing and employment.
This is the third loss for these groups in our state over the past year as they tried to repeal legislation ensuring that all families are treated equally under Washington State law. First the State PDC said no when these same groups tried to hide their donors. Then voters approved Referendum 71, retaining the law, by more than 53%. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against the proponents' attempt to undermine disclosure laws.
Our opponents assert they deserve an exemption from this ruling because of allegations of harassment. However, our opponents have yet to demonstrate any proof relevant to this case that petition signers have been threatened.
Anne wrote in an e-mail to me:
1. The standard for exemption set by the Supreme Court is not just a 'possibility' but a 'probability' of harassment.
2. Their comments about their campaign manager or other campaign leaders are irrelevant - those are not petition signers. Those are the folks who debated me on TV and radio across the state.
3. Boycotts of business that they reference from CA are also irrelevant. We have a long and honorable tradition in this country of making decisions and trying to influence change through our action where a business or government supports policies with which we disagree. Whether it is not doing business with S. Africa to effect the end of apartheid, taking a shareholder action to get a corporation to make a change in policy, or not patronizing a hotel because the owners contribute to a group or cause with which we disagree, that is part of our robust democracy. If memory serves me, these are the same groups who boycott Disneyland because they welcomed LGBT Americans to the park for a day. None of which constitutes harassment or requires the elimination of public disclosure.
Our opponents are simply grasping at straws because they are desperate.
Anne wrote in her statement:
In an amicus brief provided to the Supreme Court in Doe v. Reed, a group of political scientists reported that not only was the assertion of alleged harassment unsubstantiated in Washington State, but the plaintiffs did not present a single verified threat to any signer of a ballot measure petition in any state in any election. As their brief said, "More than a million names of signers of petitions for referenda and initiatives opposing gay marriage have been posted on the Internet, yet there is no evidence that any of these signers has faced any threat of retaliation or harassment by reason of that disclosure."
With so little evidence backing their claims, one can only speculate about why our opponents may want to continue this court battle. It is likely they are just interested in draining resources and energy from pro-equality forces to distract us from the real mission -- moving forward with equality.