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Judge keeps Washington R-71 petition signers' names sealed

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August 13, 2010

Photo credit: Washington Secretary of State's office

OLYMPIA, Washington: Earlier this week, on August 11, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle denied a request by the state to immediately release Washington Referendum 71 (2009) petition names.[1] The state's request comes following the renewal of efforts to ban the release of R-71 petitions. According to the federal court motion, they are asking for either a preliminary injunction or a temporary restraining order to block the release of the 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.[2]

Previously, the United States Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in June 2010 to release petition signatures, however, state law allows for signatures to be withheld if harassment or intimidation due to the release of petitions can be proved. In addition to the August 11 ruling, Judge Settle agreed to putting the case on a fast track. Both parties have 10 days to provide lists of their witnesses; 60 days for discovery; and 45 days for briefings.[3][4]

A trial is expected by November 2010.

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