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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Anti-Gay Petitioners Call for State Protection

(CN) - A group fighting gay rights in Washington renewed claims this week that its members will be targeted, harassed and threatened if the state releases petitions containing 130,000 signatures to kill a law that would grant domestic partners the same rights as married couples.

Protect Marriage Washington (PMW) filed its second motion with 9th Circuit Wednesday to enjoin the release of the names, which started getting published last month after a federal judge ruled against the group.

In an earlier phase of the case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices rejected claims that Washington's Public Record Act was facially unconstitutional. Since that 2010 defeat, Protect Marriage has argued that the law is unconstitutional as applied to R-71, the failed referendum at the heart of the case.

One critic, KnowThyNeighbor.org Director Tom Lang, told the media recently that he will create a searchable database of all the names once they are cleared for release, according to Protect Marriage. This allegedly proves that signers are likely to be harassed and punished for their belief in "traditional marriage." KnowThyNeighbor.org already posts similar databases with the names of those who have signed likeminded petitions in Florida and Arkansas, according to the brief.

"PMW are likely to succeed on their claim that Washington's Public Record Act is unconstitutional petition as applied to R-71 signers because PMW have shown that there is a reasonable probability of threats, harassment, and reprisals," attorney James Bopp wrote. "PMW submitted substantial evidence showing that a reasonable person would conclude that if he speaks up about traditional marriage in Washington, he risks facing a reasonable probability of threats, harassment, or reprisals and, therefore, his speech is chilled."

Last month a Washington federal judge granted summary judgment to the state on the issue and lifted an injunction on releasing the names. But the 9th Circuit quickly, and briefly, suspended the release after the group filed an emergency motion to hold the names back pending appeal.

Since the District Court denied the group's motion, however, PMW filed a renewed motion.

According to that document, attorneys for both sides have agreed to hold off on further release of the names until Nov. 17 to give the court a chance to rule.

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