Washington R-71 petition release halted

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October 25, 2011

See: Doe v. Reed (Photo credit: Washington Secretary of State's office)

By Bailey Ludlam

OLYMPIA, Washington: Just days following the release of initiative petitions for 2009's Referendum 71 an emergency appeal was filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the release of petition signatures was temporarily put to an end.

Opponents of Senate Bill 5688 and initiators of a referendum effort - which granted state registered domestic partners in Washington all rights, responsibilities, and obligations granted by or imposed by state law on married couples - initially argued that harassment, intimidation and threats was likely to occur if the signature petitions for Referendum 71 would be released.

However, on October 17 U.S. District Judge Ben Settle ruled that the petitions can be released. Settle said, only a few examples of indecent statements or conversations were presented and that there was only speculation that the issues were connected to the measure or the release of petitioner information.[1]

The recently filed emergency appeal requested that the release of petitions be stopped and that plaintiffs names in Judge Settle's October 17 ruling be redacted.[2]

Following a hearing on October 24 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary injunction blocking further release of petitions. However, the court refused to take up the case itself. The case now reverts back to U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle.[2]

Judge Settle will rule on specific complaints of harassment.[2]

In the mean time, state officials announced that they are suspending further release of petitions. As of October 20 the state has released 34 DVDs of petition signatures.[3][4]

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