Washington's Referendum 71 petition signature debate continues
Referendum 71 was an effort launched by the Washington Values Alliance to overturn Senate Bill 5688 through the veto referendum process. The official campaign in favor of placing the referendum on the ballot was Protect Marriage Washington. SB 5688 grants state registered domestic partners in Washington all rights, responsibilities, and obligations granted by or imposed by state law on married couples. Referendum 71 was approved by voters with a 53.15% vote. The law went into effect as previously planned.
On June 24, 2010 the United States Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in Doe v. Reed enforcing Washington's Public Records Act; making petition signatures public. Doe v. Reed addressed the issue of whether signing a petition for a ballot measure is a private, political act or whether the names of those signers can be made public.
Despite the high court's ruling, the specific release of Washington Referendum 71 petition names remained pending. According to state officials current laws exist to protect people who are in danger of being threatened.
A month following the ruling, anti-gay marriage activists renewed their efforts to ban the release of R-71 petitions. Activists cite examples of harassment, intimidation and threats to anti-gay marriage activists in California in 2008 (the state of California does not release petitions) and perceived threats to sponsors in Washington. On September 7, 2010, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks lifted the ban on releasing initiative petitions under the state’s Public Records Act. His decision, however did not allow the release of Referendum 71 petitions.
U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle is expected to rule on the case in two weeks. He will determine whether R-71 petitions should be permanently sealed from public access.
- Ruling releases Washington initiative petitions
- Doe v. Reed
- Washington Domestic Partners Rights and Responsibilities, Referendum 71 (2009)
- The signature privacy conundrum
- The Seattle Times, "Supreme Court rules petition signatures public; Ref. 71 names not immediately available," June 24, 2010
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Supreme Court on R-71: Names on petitions can be made public," June 24, 2010
- Statesman Journal, "Your name on petitions can be made public," June 27, 2010
- Ballot Access, "Trial in Doe v Reed, Petition Privacy Case, Set for September 27, 2011," February 25, 2011
- The Seattle Times, "Fight resumes over releasing Ref. 71 names," October 2, 2011
- Washington Secretary of State: From Our Corner, "Judge: Ruling on Doe v. Reed R-71 disclosure case in 2 weeks," October 4, 2011