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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Anti-Gay Petitioners Lose Another Fight to Block ID

(CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court refused to block disclosure of referendum petitions, despite claims that the release will result in harassment for Washington voters who did not want domestic partners to have the same rights as married couples.

Justice Samuel Alito was the lone dissenting voice on the high court, saying his colleagues made an empty promise.

In June 2010, Alito had been part of a majority that ordered Washington to release the signatures. But the decision "assured petitioners that the disclosure could be blocked if a proper party could show that compelled disclosure would result in 'threats, harassment, or reprisals,'" Alito wrote Monday. "Today's order reveals that this assurance was empty."

Referendum 71 was a failed attempt to quash a 2009 Washington law that granted domestic partners the same rights as married couples. Voters approved the law 53-47 percent.

Last month U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle rejected claims that Protect Marriage Washington had failed to demonstrate the potential for harassment if the names were released. After granting a temporary block on Oct. 25, the 9th Circuit denied the motion for an injunction pending appeal.

Alito said the appellate courts should review Settle's interpretation, which he characterized as holding that "disclosure of the names of the citizens who signed the petition cannot be shielded no matter how strong the evidence of threatened retaliation or how severe the nature of the threats."

"The alternative basis for the District Court's holding - that petitioners did not present sufficient evidence of threatened harm - also presents an important legal issue, namely, the type and quantity of proof that persons object­ing to disclosure must adduce," Alito added.

A judge on 9th Circuit noted that R-71 supporters produced evidence that they had received death threats and threats against their children.

"But according to the District Court, this was not enough," Alito wrote.

The justice threw up his hands at the apparent rush the courts have shown to dispose of this case.

"Particularly since the referendum at issue went down to defeat more than two years ago, the court's haste is hard to under­stand," he wrote. "I would grant a stay at least until the court has had an opportunity to review the record and to consider the parties' arguments."

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