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Federal Judge Temporarily Restrains Release of Names of Anti-Domestic-Partnership Petition Signers in Washington States:

Today's order, in Doe v. Reed, No. 09-5456BHS (W.D. Wash. July 29, 2009), reads in relevant part:

Plaintiffs seek to enjoin Defendants from releasing copies of the Referendum 71 petition to any third party. Specifically, Plaintiffs seek to prevent Defendants from releasing the names, addresses, and other contact information of individuals who signed the petition. Plaintiffs contend that release of this petition would result in a violation of Plaintiffs , and others' First Amendment rights....

To obtain preliminary injunctive relief, the moving party must show: (1) a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a likelihood of irreparable harm to the moving party in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) a balance of equities tips in the favor of the moving party; and (4) that an injunction is in the public interest.

Having considered Plaintiffs' motion, Defendants' failure to appear or otherwise object to Plaintiffs' motion, and the remainder of the record herein, the Court concludes as follows:

1. For purposes of deciding Plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order only, Plaintiffs have pled a colorable First Amendment claim, and have sufficiently demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits.

2. Plaintiffs have demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of irreparable harm if Defendants release the contact information of those individuals who signed the Referendum 71 petition.

3. The balance of equities weighs in favor of Plaintiffs. Defendants and interested third parties will not be unduly prejudiced by delaying the release of this information until after this matter has been fully briefed, should Defendants ultimately prevail on Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction.

4. A temporary restraining order is in the public interest. Plaintiffs' complaint raises constitutional issues potentially affecting over 100,000 voters....

The order lasts until Sept. 3, 2009, which is the date set for the hearing on a longer-lasting preliminary injunction pending a full decision on the merits. The plaintiff's constitutional argument — which the court said has "a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits," but which the court has not more expressly endorsed (since this is just a temporary restraining order aimed at maintaining the status quo pending a full hearing), is here, and here is an excerpt:

KnowThyNeighbor.org and WhoSigned.org[] have stated that they intend to make the names of the 138,500 petition signers available and searchable on the internet in an attempt to encourage Washington citizens to have a personal and uncomfortable conversation with any individual that has signed the petition. Ironically, the creators of WhoSigned.org have exercised their First Amendment right to remain anonymous, a choice the petition signers cannot make because of the Public Records Act. A temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction are necessary to protect Plaintiffs from suffering immediate and irreparable deprivations of their First Amendment liberties that will occur if Defendants release copies of the petition pursuant to the Public Records Act. As shall be set forth below and in Plaintiffs' Verified Complaint, individuals whose names are already connected with Referendum 71 have been subjected to threats, harassment, and reprisals simply for exercising their First Amendment freedoms of speech and association. If a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction are not issued, each of the 138,500 Washington residents who signed the Petition will suffer similar deprivations of their First Amendment liberties.

For more on the subject, see the prevailing lawyer's press release.

My thought: I think there are plausible arguments that voter signatures shouldn't be publicly released by the government. Just as we have a secret ballot for the ultimate votes, we could have at least a quasi-secret signature system for the signing of referendum, initiative, recall, and candidate nomination petitions. It might not be fully secret — for instance, the government would know what you signed, though it doesn't know how you voted, and it's possible that the signatures would be briefly visible as other people are signing the petitions (though that could be minimized, for instance if there's just one signature per page, and each page is concealed after it's signed). But there are good reasons why we might choose to make it as close to a secret ballot as possible.

Yet I don't think that such a system is constitutionally mandated by the First Amendment, just as I don't think that a secret ballot is constitutionally mandated by the First Amendment. Signing a petition is a legally significant act, and if the government chooses to publicize the names of people who have taken such an act, I don't think this abridges their freedom of speech even if the revelation might indeed have a deterrent effect on some people. Not all government action that deters people's exercise of their free speech rights is unconstitutional, and in particular government speech revealing signers' identities is not, I think, unconstitutional.

Even overt government condemnation of certain speakers is not a First Amendment violation, though such condemnation might deter speakers. The same is even more true, I think, of a simple release of over 100,000 names, though again I can't deny that there would be a deterrent effect. The judgment about how secret signatures or even ballots should be is a judgment that should be made legislatively (or by voter initiative). The First Amendment and First Amendment caselaw does not preclude either option.

Blue:
How can signing a petition be legally significant enough for public disclosure while petitioning to make those signatures public does not?
7.30.2009 4:24pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

The judgment about how secret signatures or even ballots should be is a judgment that should be made legislatively (or by voter initiative).

So a group wants a right that is denied to them by the legislature. It then goes to the federal courts for redress, to force the state to given them that right. Interesting.

Why didn't they just attach a second petition to the first one to make signatures of all petitions secret? I don't see why the cost would be close to double.
7.30.2009 4:35pm
Secret (mail):
Why should they not be public? If they should be private, why not political contributions? Those are public.

Also - having a public record allows the signatures to be verified. Yes, voting is private, but you also have to prove you are eligible to vote. Where is such a confirmation of eligibility when signing a stupid petition? Give me a break. If a petition gathered by biased, interested parties can affect the lives of others, then at the very least those signatures should be verified as legitimate.
7.30.2009 4:49pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Aren't the names of the people who vote in elections public information, even though the votes themselves are not? If so I have a hard time seeing petition signers having any more protection.
7.30.2009 4:52pm
anon.:
"If they should be private, why not political contributions?"

Why not, indeed.
7.30.2009 4:56pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

If so I have a hard time seeing petition signers having any more protection.

Are all petitions single option? That is, you sign, you approve? Are there any states that have petitions were a signature only means you are the named person and then you check a box , just like voting?
7.30.2009 4:57pm
Tenrou Ugetsu (mail):
I thought the names of people who vote in public election was public information, as well. Why do these people care to have their names released, they vote based on their beliefs so it shouldn't matter since they probably tell everyone where they stand on this subject. With divorce being so easy these days, who needs to protect the so-called sanctity of marriage.
7.30.2009 4:58pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
ruuffles,

I'm certainly not aware of any state where a petition signature does anything but count toward getting the measure on the ballot.

Presumably if you don't want the measure on the ballot, you don't sign.
7.30.2009 5:14pm
ShelbyC:

The judgment about how secret signatures or even ballots should be is a judgment that should be made legislatively (or by voter initiative).


Negatory with respect to ballots. Ballots should always be private. Keep in mind that one of the most important reasons for secret ballots is protection from official retaliation.
7.30.2009 5:19pm
M N Ralph:

Having considered Plaintiffs' motion, Defendants' failure to appear or otherwise object to Plaintiffs' motion, and the remainder of the record herein, the Court concludes as follows:


Does anyone know the back story on why the state's attorneys failed to show for the hearing? Seems rather odd to me.
7.30.2009 5:27pm
David Walser:
We've debated the public policy question here before. Without reiterating my reasons, I believe the proper policy is to grant petition signers as much privacy as possible. (The data collected via the petition can be used ONLY to validate signatures, no more.)

While I believe that is proper policy outcome, I don't believe that policy should be imposed by the courts. Unless there is some provision in the WA statute that protects the identity of the petition signers (I don't believe that there is such a provision), then the court should allow the release of their names and addresses.
7.30.2009 5:32pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
I haven't read the filings here. But there is a line of case law that restricts disclosure where plaintiffs can show a likelihood of retaliation. These cases include NAACP v Alabama ex rel Patterson, Bates v Little Rock, Brown v 74 Socialist Workers Campaign Committee, Buckley v Valeo, McConnell v FEC. Here there are facts suggesting a likelihood of private sector retaliation. Court have split on how strong and how certain of a threat is required, but I think this has a fair shot at obtaining non-disclosure under the precedents. These cases find a right of privacy under the First Amendment. Probably the furthest extension of that line is Roe v Wade, but one can oppose Roe v Wade while supporting a general right to privacy which may apply here. Too soon to say if the injunction will be granted.
7.30.2009 5:36pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):

Also - having a public record allows the signatures to be verified. Yes, voting is private, but you also have to prove you are eligible to vote. Where
is such a confirmation of eligibility when signing a stupid petition? Give me a break. If a petition gathered by biased, interested parties can affect
the lives of others, then at the very least those signatures should be verified as legitimate.


The signatures will be verified regardless of whether the names are made public. Some state office will go through the petition papers and compare the names and addresses against registered voters in the state. That is why petition groups always make sure to turn in more signatures than are strictly necessary, some of them will be disqualified.
7.30.2009 5:46pm
Borris (mail):
Let me see if I have this right?

Supporters of the Democratic party (Democrats the party of "tolerance" but who started the KKK) what petition signers to be named so they can engage in voter intimidation?

Well, I see nothing has changed then.
7.30.2009 6:04pm
David Schwartz (mail):
The judgment about how secret signatures or even ballots should be is a judgment that should be made legislatively (or by voter initiative).
Negatory with respect to ballots. Ballots should always be private. Keep in mind that one of the most important reasons for secret ballots is protection from official retaliation.
How does your position on what the decision should be constitute a disagreement with his position on how the decision should be made?
7.30.2009 6:12pm
Houston Lawyer:
Boris, that is also the party that wants to kill off the secret ballot for union organization votes.
7.30.2009 6:20pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):

Tenrou Ugetsu (mail):
I thought the names of people who vote in public election was public information, as well. Why do these people care to have their names released, they vote based on their beliefs so it shouldn't matter since they probably tell everyone where they stand on this subject. With divorce being so easy these days, who needs to protect the so-called sanctity of marriage.


Tenrou, is your objection to keeping these things private predicated on your disagreement with the petition signers' opinion?
7.30.2009 6:24pm
Mod:
One signs a petition to declare support for a cause. To do that, while simultaneously demanding a right to remain anonymous, defats the purpose of a "petition." If the signers are unwilling to stand by the cause publicly, why give their "support" any credence? And isn't "retaliation" to the petition, to the extent that it is legal, exactly what is meant by the marketplace of ideas? This ruling insulates the petitoners from counter-speech. But public expression should carry the risk of social consequence--that is how the marketplace roots out bad ideas.
7.30.2009 6:24pm
santa monica (mail) (www):
Suppose I want access to the petition list, just to verify that no one has forged my signature (assuming that I don't support the petition in question).

I've been approached to sign petitions perhaps 100-200 times in my life, and I can't recall ever being asked for an ID. It would have been easy to falsely sign using the identity of a friend (or anyone else, where I had memorized enough of their details), so I think this is more than an idle concern.

Does one have the ability to verify if someone has forged your signature on these types of petitions?
7.30.2009 6:52pm
Bleepless:
A little irony, also from Seattle: an organization of gay city employees is in court to prevent the release of official documents identifying the members. They fear intimidation.
7.30.2009 6:54pm
anomdebus (mail):
Since this is just a petition to put the referendum on the ballot, one could conceivably support ballot access without necessarily supporting its content.
7.30.2009 6:54pm
Freedom:
HMMMM. I wonder why people wouldn't want their names published, after all deviants like this guy are just threatening violence and arson against anyone who dares exercise their right to vote.


Care to give odds on how long before we have commentators on here defending this trash?

It's pretty obvious why the pink mafia wants to publish the names of individuals. They want to use them as a hit list. They are saying as much in the rantings on the web.
7.30.2009 7:22pm
JCC:

Since this is just a petition to put the referendum on the ballot, one could conceivably support ballot access without necessarily supporting its content.


+1

Just like a voting against a parliamentary motion to postpone, such an act only indicates a desire to vote on it. Bringing something up for the express purpose of voting it down is a long-standing principle, and certainly valid. (Just watch legislators move to "reconsider and place the motion (to reconsider) on the table" immediately after something's passage.

I'd expect a group of lawyers and law-junkies to be able to catch this distinction.

The fact that someone would support a petition "to put it on the ballot" should not be used to blast them for supporting anything in particular, any more than a mudslinging political opponent would call out someone's voting on the unpopular side of a measure strictly for "parliamentary purposes" in an attack ad. It's slimy, low, and wrong.


Separately, any group should be ashamed to use petition documents to "have an uncomfortable conversation" (ie, intimidate) those who signed. They won't be ashamed to use such tactics, of course, but that's a separate problem.
7.30.2009 7:29pm
zuch (mail) (www):
ruuffles:
[Prof. Volokh]: The judgment about how secret signatures or even ballots should be is a judgment that should be made legislatively (or by voter initiative).
So a group wants a right that is denied to them by the legislature. It then goes to the federal courts for redress, to force the state to given them that right. Interesting.
Prof. Volokh suggests that there is no federal recourse here. The redress they need to seek is from the legislature of the state, if necessary through enough voters to get a recalcitrant legislature to change....

Cheers,
7.30.2009 7:34pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Mod:

One signs a petition to declare support for a cause.


I know folks who sign EVERY petition every year because he thinks citizens should vote on more issues.

I suppose that is "supporting a cause" but probably not what you meant!
7.30.2009 7:44pm
Secret (mail):


Yes, the gays are notorious for their violence against straight people. *rolls eyes* I think at best gay people want to know who votes this way so they can be sure not to patronize the businesses they own or converse politely with them on the street all the while those "neighbors" are metaphorically stabbing them in the back.
7.30.2009 8:12pm
Chimaxx (mail):
I'd suggest that any legislation that makes the names of petition-signers anonymous should also make falsifying the contents and nature of the petition illegal and prosecutable. The signature-gatherers for this petition were caught on video lying about its contents (saying, for instance, that it was a petition FOR the institution of same-sex marriage).

Setting up a situation where petition-gatherers face no penalty for lying about the nature of the ballot proposition and signers have no way of discovering after the fact that they were duped, since the signatures are not publicly released hardly seems like a recipe for an informed electorate.
7.30.2009 8:28pm
Freedom:

Yes, the gays are notorious for their violence against straight people.

Actually they are. Of course, we just brush that stuff under the rug because it doesn't really matter.
7.30.2009 8:31pm
Dasarge:
There is a line of cases in WA that holds membership lists in organizations advocating on political and social issues are private and not subject to disclosure. Plaintiff's in this case, as Judge Settle pointed out, are using that right. It may be that plaintiffs here seek also to use that line of cases, which are constitutionally based, as well.

Ben Settle is a smart guy and seems to be doing his job well. Denying the injunction now means plaintiffs win even if they lose on the merits. This order preserves the status quo pending hearing on the merits.
7.30.2009 8:41pm
Steve P. (mail):
Just like in the previous thread, it seems a lot of commenters are taking stands based on the issue (SSM), and not on principle.

I believe that the signatures should always be public and easily accessible, regardless of the issue. More information is almost always better.
7.30.2009 8:43pm
CDR D (mail):
...test...
7.30.2009 8:49pm
Mod:
einhverfr:


I know folks who sign EVERY petition every year because he thinks citizens should vote on more issues.

I suppose that is "supporting a cause" but probably not what you meant!


That's exactly my point. Anonymity defeats the purpose of a petition by diluting the sincerity of petitioners. If someone is not willing to support a cause publicly, he should not sign a petition supporting that cause.

And, as long as the retaliation is not illegal, I see nothing wrong with it. The public expression of opinions should come with social consequences. That also applies to expressive retaliation, of course--if supporters of same-sex marriage go too far, their support may evaporate.
7.30.2009 8:59pm
LongCat:

That's exactly my point. Anonymity defeats the purpose of a petition by diluting the sincerity of petitioners. If someone is not willing to support a cause publicly, he should not sign a petition supporting that cause.


How does one square this rationale for petitions with the secret ballot? If you aren't willing to publicly say you're voting against gay marriage, why should you be able to vote to force others?
7.30.2009 9:39pm
Brian K (mail):
I believe that the signatures should always be public and easily accessible, regardless of the issue. More information is almost always better.

exactly!
7.30.2009 9:47pm
Steve P. (mail):
A little irony, also from Seattle: an organization of gay city employees is in court to prevent the release of official documents identifying the members. They fear intimidation.

That's likely hypocritical on the part of the gay employees, if they're also in favor of releasing the signatures.

Still, I think you can make a principled stand in favor of releasing names on a petition (but only if it's context-neutral), and suppressing membership rolls from a private organization. Of course, the issue is that this organization is supported materially by the city, which may make them public, and thus they may have to give up the list.
7.30.2009 9:48pm
Secret (mail):
Freedom, put up or shut up. Show us where the gays have been historically a violent segment of society. Because I can assure you for every incident you bring up, I'll show you ten more that illustrate violence against people for being gay. Those are the stories that are rarely publicized. Not counting the hundreds of teenagers who take their lives every year because they are either bullied for being gay or are too afraid to live openly because the world is filled with intolerant people like you.

You say we don't talk about it...well I'm calling your bluff. Let's talk about it. Put up or shut up.
7.30.2009 9:52pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
santa monica,

The state is already supposed to do more than just verify name and address. They are supposed to verify that the signature matches as well, though I honestly doubt that is done well.
7.30.2009 10:16pm
Artifex (mail):
Here in Colorado we had several right to work initiatives to vote on. If the signatures on the petitions were public, could the nonunion companies then use this to purge themselves of union sympathizers ?

I would think a great deal of caution would be a good idea on this issue. This seems to be a fantastic tool for intimidating weaker opposition. I would think that every argument as to why a ballot would be secret would also apply to signatures.
7.30.2009 10:18pm
David Schwartz (mail):
That's exactly my point. Anonymity defeats the purpose of a petition by diluting the sincerity of petitioners. If someone is not willing to support a cause publicly, he should not sign a petition supporting that cause.
Right, but is the cause "ban gay marriage" or "let the people decide whether or not to ban gay marriage"? Are you arguing that there is something wrong with a person signing a petition because he wants that petition to become law if and only if the majority of the people support it and wants it publicly known that fewer than half the people support it if that is in fact the case?
7.30.2009 10:29pm
Freedom:
Freedom, put up or shut up. Show us where the gays have been historically a violent segment of society. Because I can assure you for every incident you bring up, I'll show you ten more that illustrate violence against people for being gay. Those are the stories that are rarely publicized. Not counting the hundreds of teenagers who take their lives every year because they are either bullied for being gay or are too afraid to live openly because the world is filled with intolerant people like you. You say we don't talk about it...well I'm calling your bluff. Let's talk about it. Put up or shut up.


To start with, I'd caution you that you are starting out on a fallacious premise. IE: That since people sometimes do bad things to homosexuals, that makes everything that homosexuals do A-OK.

You are basically retreating to the tired "Tu Quoque" fallacy.

But, since you want examples, let's look at a few of the many.

Let's see. We had the homosexual mafia sending White Powder to Mormon Temples around the Country.

We had homosexuals storming churches around the nation.

Homosexual activists attacking old women over Prop 8.

Missionaries attacked in the Castro District.

Then we had the old: "Burn their f---ing churches to the ground, and then tax the charred timbers." threats from the pink mafia.

Christians assaulted in Warwick, Rhode Island for supporting Traditional Marriage.

We also had these incidents.

Homosexuals and pro-abortionists belonging to the groups ACT-UP and WHAM (Women's Health Action Mobilization) stormed New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral on December 10, 1989, assaulting parishioners, disrupting Cardinal John O'Connor's Mass by screaming and shoving people, and desecrating the consecrated Host by throwing It on the ground and stamping on It. Outside, hundreds of screaming homosexuals burned Cardinal O'Connor in effigy and attacked passersby, all because the Cardinal had refused to toe their immoral "safe sex" line. Some of the placards the homosexuals carried displayed slogans such as; "MARY SHOULD HAVE HAD AN ABORTION; "CHRIST WAS A HOMOSEXUAL;" and "DEATH TO THE CHURCH!" After the invasion of St. Patrick's cathedral, ACT-UP issued a press statement saying that its cause is "... important enough [to allow us] to invade any space, to disrupt any speech." In December of 1990, in defiance of a court order resulting from the attack one year earlier, homosexuals broke into the Mass once again and made off with consecrated Hosts, which they gleefully displayed outside.

"Dr. Chuck McIlhenny was pastor of San Francisco's First Orthodox Presbyterian Church for many years. In 1989, he exercised his Constitutional rights of free speech and assembly and helped engineer the defeat of a domestic partnership law that would have forced the public to accept homosexual immorality by compelling everyone to treat two homosexuals as a family. Anyone who did not willingly comply would be heavily fined or jailed. As one of the city's few politically active pastors, McIlhenny and his family became the focus of intense and vicious homosexual hate. For three years, they received thousands of threatening and harassing phone calls 24 hours a day, and many callers swore to sodomize and kill the McIlhenny's three young daughters. McIlhenny's home and church were firebombed. The arsons culminated in their home being firebombed while they were sleeping inside. In 1990, homosexual groups repeatedly vandalized the church and home with graffiti like "Dykes for Choice," and attacked the crisis pregnancy center housed in the church. Cowardly, skulking homosexuals broke the church's windows so many times the parishioners boarded them up permanently."

Then there are these lovely comments:

"I can, in the privacy of my own skull, douse [Senator] Helms with a bucket of gasoline and set his putrid ass on fire or throw [Congressman] William Dannemeyer off the Empire State Building ... [Cardinal John O'Connor] is the world's most active liar about condoms and safer-sex ... This fat cannibal from that house of walking swastikas up on Fifth Avenue should lose his church tax-exempt status and pay retroactive taxes from the last couple centuries. Shut down our clinics and we will shut down your church" — Homosexual activist David Wojnarowicz.

"It's hard to refrain from taking this man [Pat Buchanan] by the throat and squeezing as hard as you can while you look into his ugly, disgusting face and watch the eyeballs burst and pop out of their sockets. Or maybe you feel like stepping on his face and squishing his demented brain until the rot oozes out of it and onto the pavement. I have no problem with imagining violence against this wacko ..." — Michelangelo Signorile, editor-at-large of the homosexual magazine Outweek.

"... I think the time for violence has now arrived. I don't personally think I'm the guy with the guts to do it, but I'd like to see an AIDS terrorist army, like the Irgun which led to the state of Israel" — Homosexual playwright Larry Kramer, founder of ACT-UP.

"I think we should blow up Gracie Mansion... One of my favorite notions is that we make fake blood and throw bottles of it in public places, and shout, "This is AIDS blood!" Let them think that it is. We have to scare people. We have to make their lives uncomfortable. I think we should be tying up whole cities. We should cripple this country. We should throw bombs. We should set fires. We should stop traffic. We should surround the White House" — Larry Kramer.

"We should have shut down the subway and burned down city hall. I think rioting is a valid tactic and should be tried ... If someone took out [killed] Jesse Helms or William Dannemeyer of California, I would be the first to stand up and applaud" — ACT-UP member Michael Petrelis.[55]

•"If [AIDS] research money is not forthcoming at a certain level by a certain date, all gay males should give blood. Whatever action is required to get national attention is valid. If that includes blood terrorism, so be it" — Homosexual activist Robert Schwab.

--------------------------------

Is that enough? Would you like more? When you factor in that homosexuals make up about 2% of the population, you find that this type of activity is quite common.

BTW: Don't bother trotting out your examples of "hate crimes." The overwhelming majority of "hate crimes" are nothing more than victim exploitation by the pink mafia, For instance when bi-sexual Andrew McKinney murdered Matthew Shepard during a robbery gone bad.

Not to mention, the FBI actually keeps numbers on these things.

In 2007 there were 1,460 "Hate crimes" involving "sexual orientation." (And that includes crimes against Heterosexuals because of their "sexual orientation.) So, out of 11,251,818 crimes in 2007, less than 1,500 involved motivation for "sexual orientation."

Yeah, that's a real epidemic.
7.30.2009 10:40pm
Steve P. (mail):
Freedom,

Your 'pink mafia' apparently talk a good game, but I don't see any examples of someone being killed by these hooligans. By my measure, Secret wins this round.
7.30.2009 10:50pm
mls (www):
maybe the petitioners are worried it will be used against them in their hate crime trials
7.30.2009 11:00pm
first history:
Private organizations (whether businesses, private citizens or non-profts) are seeking to use a public, governmental process (elections) to further private policy choices. That's fine, but they should be subject to public scrutiny, including those who sign petitions and contribute funds. How do we know if fraud was missed by election officials if the petitions were not public? Corrupt election officials are not unknown. Nominating petitions for local government are frequently challenged by opponents. If the names remain secret the public has no idea if corruption has taken place.

The same applies to political contributions--it is usually far past the election when the government checks the validity of contributors, depriving the the voters of necessary information.

We have already seen the judiciary sanction a a secret civil trial. (I am surprised the VC didn't pick this up.) Should we close city council meetings so its members can avoid embarrassment? Why should the public sanction more and more government secrecy?
7.30.2009 11:00pm
Putting Two and Two...:
Wow... considering Freedom's obvious familiarity with the subject, it's a wonder he didn't just prove how awful gay people are by telling us how many of the 1,460 sexual-orientation hate-crimes in 2007 were anti-heterosexual.

I'm sure it must be over 1,400. After all, we're such meanines.
7.30.2009 11:11pm
neurodoc:
...Plaintiffs have pled a colorable First Amendment claim...
The order uses "colorable" in a way that lawyers routinely use and understand that word. But if one looks to Black's Law Dictionary for a definition of "colorable," what they get is, "That which is in appearance onloy, and not in reality, what it purports to be, hence conterfeit, feigned, having the appearance of truth." Can EV or someone else explain what has long puzzled me, that is how an authoritative law dictionary's definition of "colorable" can diverge so widely from common usage and understanding of that adjective in the legal community.
7.30.2009 11:41pm
Anthony A (mail):
"you also have to prove you are eligible to vote"

I keep hearing this, but I have never, since I started voting 25 years ago, had to actually do this.
7.30.2009 11:55pm
Freedom:
Your 'pink mafia' apparently talk a good game, but I don't see any examples of someone being killed by these hooligans. By my measure, Secret wins this round.


WOW. Another pompous internet blowhard who thinks in terms of "winning" and "losing" on a discussion board. Amazing.

What's even more amazing is that the topic was about violence, not deaths.

If you would like examples of deaths, let's start with the Jesse Dirkhising murder.

While we are talking about Homosexual predators, how about Andrew Cunanan, David Edward Maust, and Wayne Williams?

(I don't think you want to go here, because this is quite an extensive list.)
7.31.2009 12:18am
Secret (mail):
3 people is an extensive list? By who's account?

I would say that precisely because homosexuals only make up 2% of the population and you have presented at best four incidents of ACTUAL violence (versus threats of violence or other potential destruction of personal property), then I would say that the overall violence exhibited by homosexuals seems pretty weak.

As for the homosexual predators you mention, we can certainly start a list of heterosexual predators if you like, but I imagine it isn't necessary since you seem intelligent enough to realize that I could certainly list more than you.

This isn't about winning or losing, but you certainly took it upon yourself to start rattling off youtube videos that I suppose are evidence supporting that gays are generally and historically a violent segment of society. And one important note you left out in your quoting FBI statistics is that reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation have risen more than 15% in the last three years. Oh and hate crimes based on sexual orientation against heterosexuals is only 2%, while over 60% are reported as against gay men and 14% against lesbians. Those statistics alone show that homosexuals are far less violent against heterosexuals based on sexual orientation than the reverse.

Matthew Shephard was a robbery gone wrong? Yet he met his murderers in a gay bar...even though they were not gay? Really? Yes, they may have intended to rob him but they beat him and tied him to a fence after leaving with him from a gay bar. Seems even by the most relaxed standards to be two men targeting a homosexual for violence. And after all, we are talking about violence remember.

But I asked you to put up, so I will do the same (and will include pretty much anything I find since you chose to just pull youtube videos that substantiate pretty much nothing) and I'll start with probably the most recent incident of violence against gays (because they are gay):

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I mean that is just what I found in the span of about 15 minutes. And just in the United States for the most part. I'd be happy to point to the actual execution of homosexuals that occurs in dozens of countries across the world if you'd like. I mean I certainly bemoan being denied equal treatment under the law in the United States, but hell, at least I'm not hanged in the middle of town for being gay. I count my blessings, be sure of that.

Obviously this is all anecdotal. You yourself quoted the FBI statistics, which I think alone prove my point.
7.31.2009 1:47am
Secret (mail):
Also, I'm sorry but I have to address the "homosexual predators" tidbit as well. You list three people who were serial killers who killed other men, presumably because they themselves were homosexuals. Exactly what does this show? That there can be serial killers who are homosexuals? They are nutjobs who were killing other people, not because those other people were gay, but because they themselves were sick murderers like every heterosexual predator that has walked the earth. Is it so surprising there would be homosexual killers as well? What we were actually discussing were people who target others based on the sexual orientation of those other people - hate crimes if you will. I don't think anyone believes that Andrew Cunanan, et al. killed out of hatred over sexual orientation. Give me a break.
7.31.2009 1:57am
Pender:
Aren't these the folks who scream bloody murder when the courts find a right to gay marriage? Yet here they are, begging the court to overturn the will of the people and the acts of the legislature when it suits their ends.

Anyone who complains about judicial activism when courts recognize marriage equality had better oppose this court case as well, or you're exposing yourself as an insincere opportunist whose only constant is opposing the recognition of fundamental civil rights for gay people.
7.31.2009 2:00am
Public_Defender (mail):
Professor Volokh,

Why didn't you include the exhibits? I remember a similar challenge involving Prop 8. The judge concluded that the "harassment" was mostly people exercising their First Amendment rights to criticize those who supported Prop 8.

As you've pointed out many times, the freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism. Also, the First Amendment Freedom of Association is also the freedom not to associate.

Without seeing evidence of "harassment," it's impossible to judge whether there is any improper threat to people who signed.
7.31.2009 7:54am
BZ:
Yikes, while I hate to get involved in these bomb-throwing threads, I will point out some constitutional notes:

1) The U.S. Supreme Court, in Buckley v Amer. Constitutional Law Foundation, 525 U.S. 182 (1999) and Meyer v Grant, 486 U.S. 414 (1986) found that petition signing and circulation are core political speech. First amendment protections for such speech is at its "zenith," 486 U.S. at 425, meaning that any government regulation must be strictly construed and be the least restrictive alternative. [BTW, the Buckley case offered one of the most courteous and capable groups of litigators I have encountered, as we all had lunch together following the Supreme Court argument.]

2) The principal ground for government regulation of initiative petitioning is not to provide more speech to be heard by listeners through disclosure, but to prevent fraud. Thus, the government must balance the circulators' and signers' maximum speech rights against the government's need to regulate elections. "there must be a substantial regulation of elections if they are to be fair and honest and if some sort of order, rather than chaos, is to accompany the democratic processes." Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724, 730 (1974); see Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351, 358 (1997); Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780, 788 (1983).

3) In Buckley, the Court looked at the question of whether the State can force inititive circulators to wear name badges and disclose other information. The Court struck down the identification badges, pointing to instances of harassment, but permitted the State to require some identification be provided to the State to protect against fraud by out-of-state circulators. If the State cannot force the public disclosure of initiative circulators' names because it does not deter fraud, the rationale for public disclosure of signers' names is limited.

4) Note that Buckley was considered during a particular expansive period of government regulation of elections, which would lead to Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652 (1990). The continued viability of Austin and its "anti-distortion rationale" (corporate spending distorts the political process) is now at issue in the Supreme Court's re-argument of Citizens United v. FEC, to be argued in September. With the trend of recent campaign finance decisions undercutting the "anti-distortion rationale," it is anyone's guess whether any Court decision in Citizens United will similarly undercut government regulation of petition gathering.
7.31.2009 9:26am
pete (mail) (www):

Since this is just a petition to put the referendum on the ballot, one could conceivably support ballot access without necessarily supporting its content.


I was approached by a Nader supporter with a petition to get him on the ballot in Texas once in college. I was by no means a Nader supporter, but I wanted him on the ballot to potentially drain votes away from Gore and in general I support third parties being on ballots. Alas, I was still registered to vote in California so I did not sign the petition, but would have if I had been registered to vote in Texas.

I generally oppose most state ballot measures since my experience in California was that they were over matters best left to the legislature and would probably not sign a petition to put one on the ballot unless I thought it was an appropriate issue for the people to vote on even if I agreed with the policy goals.
7.31.2009 9:26am
David Schwartz (mail):
pete: That brings up another reason a person might sign a proposition. To increase voter interest and thus increase voter turnout for other contents and propositions.

You may just want high voter turnout generally. Or you could specifically want high voter turnout of the specific types of voters who would be drawn to an election with an SSM proposition on the ballot, perhaps even to get their votes on specific other contests or propositions.

I agree with you about not supporting most ballot measures. But I can also imagine someone who made the opposite argument and generally supported most ballot measures simply because he is a believer in direct Democracy.

I'm sure with some effort we could come up with at least 10 good reasons a person might sign a proposition other than wanting that proposition to pass.
7.31.2009 9:59am
Pragmatist:
Most, if not all, state constitutions have language protecting the freedoms of speech and petition. Some have found their state constitions more protective of speech than the federal constitution.

A working federal scheme should put a case like this in the state courts, under the state's constitution. The first amendment, incorporated through the fourteenth, should only be called upon to provide a floor for all the states.

Let the states work out the balance between the two competing values here, as ‘experiments in democracy’.

That wouldn't close off all confidential petitioning activity in states that tip the balance slightly towards openness: I'd still be very upset if my state legislators published my letters to them.

Making it a matter of the federal constitution, enforced by the federal courts across all states, shuts down the freedom to find the best course for the nation.
7.31.2009 10:16am
Milhouse (www):
The court should offer to let them have the names, but only on condition that the names of everybody involved in the defendant organisations are also disclosed, and mailed to every name on the petition. That way, signers of the petition who find themselves the target of harassment people exercising their first amendment right to criticise them, may exercise their own first amendment rights in the same fashion. If the defendants refuse to have their names disclosed, then they should be estopped from demanding the signers' names.
7.31.2009 1:06pm
Milhouse (www):
Some people seem to have a strange notion of the purpose of petitions. The whole point of requiring a certain number of signatures before putting something on the ballot is to ensure that the measure has significant support, and therefore that there is at least some realistic chance of it passing. If it has no chance at all of being carried, then it's a waste of everybody's time and resources to put it on the ballot. Therefore it makes sense that petition signatures should be just as private as ballots.
7.31.2009 1:09pm
Freedom:
Secret, you fail.

First of all, you apparently can't count. There are far more than three incidents on my list.

As for your links,

Almost all of your links fall into one of two categories. Either standard assaults where the pink mafia tried to spin the incident into a "bias crime." Or radical homosexualists who claimed that they had been attacked because they were homosexuals, even when the police and judges disagreed.

In a couple of your bar attacks (that seems to be a recurring theme) did it ever occur to you that a couple of drunk idiots got into a fight (as happens all around the country) and during that fight one of the participants yelled slurs about homosexuals. That doesn't make the event a "hate crime" nor does it make the motivation for the fight "sexual orientation."

It's hilarious that you try to brush the homosexual serial killers under the rug. The homosexuals preyed on individuals to satisfy their perverted urges. The list of homosexual serial killers is extensive, between them they killed HUNDREDS.

It's utterly pathetic that you people sweep brutal murders (like Jesse Dirkhising) under the rug, simply because it conflicts with your agenda.

As for your other rambling, that "the videos don't substantiate anything"? Are you insane? The videos clearly show homosexuals, in many cases mobs of homosexuals, attacking people simply because they hold a different position on marriage. Is that peaceable?

And yes, Matthew Shepard was a robbery gone bad. Andrew McKinney was a bi-sexual. His lawyers dreamed up the homosexual panic defense in a pathetic attempt to save his worthless hide. McKinney and his pal were violent meth heads on a rampage. Shepard was picked simply because they thought he would be easy to rob. He wasn't killed because he was a homosexual. He was killed because he was the victim of a robbery gone bad.

The way that the pink mafia exploited his death is absolutely disgusting.
7.31.2009 1:41pm
Secret (mail):
No the way you defend every violent attack on a homosexual as some conspiracy hatched by the gays is what is disgusting. If you READ most of those articles that I posted, it is VERY clear that they were hate biased crimes. The only person sweeping things under the rug is you. It's as if you cannot admit that homosexuals are ever targeted. EVERY incident of violence is an overreaction or a fictionalized account. And like I said, those links are just the ones I found in 15 minutes. And I think only two reflect the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of teenagers who have chosen to take their lives because of the bullying they receive at the hands of heterosexuals solely because they are or are perceived to be gay. That people would rather be dead than have society perceive them as gay should be an clear indication of how society treats homosexuality.

And I can count perfectly well. Most of the links you posted above were actually no incidents of violence whatsoever. At least I have the ability to accept that there are probably some homosexuals who resort to violence to fight over political issues that affect their lives. You have yet to show me where seemingly unbiased heterosexuals were targeted by homosexuals and were violently attacked or killed simply because they were heterosexuals. Even the incidents you post about the gays "attacking" heterosexuals are clearly incidents where two opposing sides who were arguing over a political issue resorted to violence. And both sides have been guilty in that regard.

As for serial killers, need I list the heterosexual serial killers who have likewise, driven by their sexual urges for the opposite sex, have tortured and killed women and girls? Sexually violent crimes are far more prevalent in the heterosexual community my friend. You've named three sick serial killers who killed members of the same sex. Their victims were not targeted because they were heterosexual, they were targeted because they were men. There's a difference. If you aren't intelligent enough to see that difference, then there really isn't much else to say.

I only hope you get back on your meds...the paranoia and tendency to find conspiracy everywhere you turn must make your life very difficult.
7.31.2009 2:05pm
pete (mail) (www):
Secret and Feedom, could you please both go take your argument up elsewhere, perhaps through private email exchanges. It is getting tiresome to scroll through your messages to find the ones that actually deal with ballot petitions and neither of you are contributing much light on that topic.

@ David

But I can also imagine someone who made the opposite argument and generally supported most ballot measures simply because he is a believer in direct Democracy.


I think that is a good reason to sign a petition. I would add that in Texas many of the propositions that make the ballot and that I have voted for are for the most part pratically meaningless in terms of policy, but are appropriate because they amount to changes in the state contitution. There was one a while back to get rid of the office of county hide inspector, which is no longer needed, but was decades ago when cattle branding had a huge impact on life in Texas and another that reclassified one of the state universities to be part of a different state system. I am not sure what method it took to get them on the ballot, but would have signed petitions for both of them if asked even though I do not care one way or the other about those issues.
7.31.2009 2:26pm
Henry679 (mail):
Wow, why don't some of you guys just post "I hate fags" and quit boring us with all the tendentious window-dressing.

This information is available here in Florida, where we recently had just such a ballot measure (2008):



Shockingly, the blood of signers has not been running through the streets. I presume some proponents of SSM have decided not to do business with some signers, but last I checked the boycott was just as fundamental a right as petitioning the government.

I never knew the anti-SSM crowd was so loaded with moral cowards.
7.31.2009 2:30pm
Steve H (mail):
I'm fairly strongly in favor of SSM (or at least strongly anti-anti-SSM), but I think the names of petition signers should be protected from public release.

Sure, one can theorize "at least 10 good reasons a person might sign a proposition other than wanting that proposition to pass," but in reality, most of those reasons would be purely theoretical -- essentially no one in real life thinks and acts that way. Rather, they sign the petition if they support the proposal, and they won't sign the petition if they oppose it.

I think that applies even more to a hot-button sensitive issue like same-sex-marriage -- the number of people who would sign a petition just to see the issue on the ballot must be miniscule. People who favor same-sex-marriage would not want to see the matter go to the ballot, because (IIRC) their side has lost just about every single referendum/initiative battle. I am certain that the vast majority of the signers are doing so because they want the issue to pass, not because they are that interested in seeing what happens.

That said, petition-signing is analogous enough to voting in my view that the same reasons behind the secret ballot would also apply to initiative petitions.

The only concern I have is that if names were kept secret, how could opponents of the measure challenge the validity of the signatures?
7.31.2009 2:55pm
Chimaxx (mail):
And how would those people who disagree with the petition and only signed because they were lied to about its contents find out about their error if the signatures were kept secret?
7.31.2009 3:13pm
Freedom:
So now you've retreated to talking points straight out of the Kirk &Madsen playbook. You people need to at least get on a different script.

And No, you can't count, and apparently you can't read either. As I never said that ALL of the accounts were fictionalized. Nice straw man.

I will also point out to you, that your postings have been one Tu Quoque fallacy after another. You seem to think that if you dredge up a few examples of people doing bad things to homosexuals, that suddenly negates the fact that homosexuals have been resorting to violence against others in pursuit of their cause.

The most laughable part of your screed is your attempt to pretend that the incidents that I posted were not violence. Or that because the homosexuals "didn't target heterosexuals because they were heterosexuals" that the violence was somehow justified. You are putting forth the proposition that the homosexual violence is justified simply because it's over a "political issue."

So, you are a terrorist, just like the idiot threatening violence and property damage against the people in Washington State.

Why can't you just come out and say that violence against others is wrong. And that the terrorists who are threatening violence are wrong.

Instead, you retreat to saying "You too!!!!" in a pathetic attempt to cover for your terrorist sympathies.

Fail.
7.31.2009 3:18pm
Chimaxx (mail):
With opponents like Freedom, who needs supporters?
7.31.2009 3:42pm
james (mail):
The pot and kettle need to have the same rules. KnowThyNeighbor.org and WhoSigned.org want to keep their membership secret precisely to avoid the kind of legal harassment they wish to visit upon the petition signers. I fail to see how this would serve any kind of justice.
7.31.2009 5:03pm
Freedom:
You people can't do it. You can't condemn the terrorist activities of the homosexualists can you. You see their cause as "righteous", so you don't care if they are calling for Arson and violence.

So when someone burns down Sarah Palin's church, it's a-ok isn't it? After all, it's not a "hate crime" to attack those evil fundies.
7.31.2009 5:04pm
ArthurKirkland:
I have far less objection to a short-term injunction, in this circumstance, than to a publication prohibition. After a couple of weeks, or so, I find it difficult to perceive a legitimate basis for withholding public information.

One of the best ways to identify bad signatures -- a difficult task, customarily required to be conducted in a harshly compressed period -- would be to publish the list and enable those whose signatures were improperly submitted to identify the problem.

In the jurisdictions with which I am familiar, any person can review petitions and/or purchase a copy of any or all pages. Publication of public information usually is covered by Emil Faber's handy policy: Knowledge Is Good.
7.31.2009 6:20pm
ArthurKirkland:
I have far less objection to a short-term injunction, in this circumstance, than to a publication prohibition. After a couple of weeks, or so, I find it difficult to perceive a legitimate basis for withholding public information.

One of the best ways to identify bad signatures -- a difficult task, customarily required to be conducted in a harshly compressed period -- would be to publish the list and enable those whose signatures were improperly submitted to identify the problem.

In the jurisdictions with which I am familiar, any person can review petitions and/or purchase a copy of any or all pages. Publication of public information usually is covered by Emil Faber's handy policy: Knowledge Is Good.
7.31.2009 6:20pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Milhouse:
Some people seem to have a strange notion of the purpose of petitions. The whole point of requiring a certain number of signatures before putting something on the ballot is to ensure that the measure has significant support, and therefore that there is at least some realistic chance of it passing. If it has no chance at all of being carried, then it's a waste of everybody's time and resources to put it on the ballot. Therefore it makes sense that petition signatures should be just as private as ballots.
That's yet another reason to sign a petition you don't support. If you believe that enough other people support it so that it has a good chance of passing, and are nearly certain it will get enough signatures to be put on the ballot, signing the petition conserves resources. If you're standing there by the petition drive, it's obviously easier for you to sign it than for the petitioners to find someone else.

If the whole point of petitions is to conserve resources, why not sign a petition you know will get on the ballot anyway, also to conserve resources?

Simply say, "I signed the petition because I knew it would get on the ballot anyway. There's definitely broad support from 'true believers'. So I signed the petition simply so that somebody else wouldn't have to be bothered to do it. My signing conserved resources, which is the whole point of the petition system".

So signing a petition does not say "I support this petition" but "I believe putting this petition on the ballot is not a waste of resources".
7.31.2009 7:25pm
Chimaxx (mail):
james writes:

The pot and kettle need to have the same rules. KnowThyNeighbor.org and WhoSigned.org want to keep their membership secret precisely to avoid the kind of legal harassment they wish to visit upon the petition signers.


WhoSigned.org may be less than forthcoming, but KnowThyNeighbor.org identifies their membership and their addresses here and here.

Freedom:
So when someone burns down Sarah Palin's church, it's a-ok isn't it? After all, it's not a "hate crime" to attack those evil fundies.


As far as I can tell, the arsonists have not been identified, no note or other signs identifying the perpetrator were left behind (at least as reported in the press), and no group has claimed credit for it. If the arsonist is found, and if that person was doing it with the intention of intimidating the members of the church over their religious beliefs (rather than because he or she likes fire, or had a personal beef with the pastor or Sarah Palin or another church member), then, yeah, that would be a hate crime, kind of by definition, and he or she should be prosecuted for it. But as of now, we don't know who, much less why.

I think Focus on the Family's Love Won Out is one of the most destructive organizations in the country, directly responsible to psychological harm to its clients, and even more, their families, and I hope that the recession drives them and their mission into oblivion, but if it turns out that whoever torched Palin's church did it in retaliation for the church having hosted Love Won Out, then yes, I would unhesitatingly condemn the arson as a hate crime (regardless of whether it could be prosecuted as one under the law). But we just don't know.
7.31.2009 9:02pm
Secret (mail):
freedom - i agree with the above poster this has gone off topic. we were arguing over why people should be allowed to have secret petitions. you argues gays were violent and so they needed to hide from them. i never said gays were not violent or that there were no incidents of violence on the part of gay people. i have no doubt that homosexuals have the capability to hurt others. all i was arguing is that the prevalence of hate crimes by homosexuals against heterosexuals does not remotely compare to the reverse. (which by the way admits that I recognize that homosexuals can hate on heterosexuals - I never contested that).

Also - I was not saying that the links you posted were not incidents of violence (though I do say some were merely threats of violence rather than actual acts). I simply said they were not of the same motivation as someone beating someone in the street for being gay. I'm very happy for your cause you were able to find one or two incidents of gays getting upset at decades of repression and fighting over it. I'm sure it bolsters your belief that gays do not deserve your respect, sympathy or anything other than your disdain.

However, you've still yet to show that homosexuals, as a group, are notoriously violent. You posted one or two links of "violence" that stem from one moment in time (the fight over Prop 8). If that is all the cards you can lay out on the table, I think you've proven my point already.

I don't advocate violence, I've said nothing of the sort. Anyone with two working brain cells can tell.

Also I apologize for getting off topic to the above poster - it's often hard to not poke the crazy in here.
7.31.2009 11:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
Freedom: "Then there are these lovely comments:"

It's rather disingenuous of you to say that comments actually equate to violence, yet most of your examples of 'violence' are nothing more than comments.

If you believe that comments equal violence, then the anti-gay crowd is guilty of tremendous violence against gays. You need only review a few of their websites.

REading over your posts, however, it is clear that you don't believe that there is or has been any violence directed at gays by straights, which is very strange. The FBI actually keeps tract of this, and violence against gays has actually risen in the last few years.

(sigh) but of course, I'm talking to the wind, because people like you just hate gays so much they make up crap to prove how awful we really are, right?
8.1.2009 2:07am
Randy R. (mail):
But back on topic -- I think that the people who sign this petition would WANT their names made public. Afterall, they are saving marriage from us dangerous homosexuals who are just intent on destroying it for no reason at all, and what could be more honorable than that? You'd think they would trumpet their support from the highest mountain, actually.

But seriously, I realize it's an issue upon which reasonable minds can disagree. I personally think it should be public, though, because how else can you insure that it was done correctly? If people were coerced into thinking that this petition supports gay marriage, then signature was obtained through fraudulent means. If people lied on the petition, or information was inaccurate or missing, it's invalid. How to check? I doubt someone is actually checking all those thousands of signatures.

Furthermore, if people knew that their names would be made public before they sign the petition, and sign anyway, then they waive any objection to having their name made public.
8.1.2009 2:12am
Brian Garst (www):

But back on topic -- I think that the people who sign this petition would WANT their names made public. Afterall, they are saving marriage from us dangerous homosexuals who are just intent on destroying it for no reason at all, and what could be more honorable than that? You'd think they would trumpet their support from the highest mountain, actually.

It has little to do with whether or not they find it "honorable." It is quite clear that the intent in publishing these names is to assist in the intimidation and harassment of the people who signed. It's perfectly reasonable for them to feel, despite being proud of their position, that they shouldn't have to go through that.


But seriously, I realize it's an issue upon which reasonable minds can disagree. I personally think it should be public, though, because how else can you insure that it was done correctly? If people were coerced into thinking that this petition supports gay marriage, then signature was obtained through fraudulent means. If people lied on the petition, or information was inaccurate or missing, it's invalid. How to check? I doubt someone is actually checking all those thousands of signatures.

Validating the signatures does not require them to be public, as numerous people have already explained in here.
8.1.2009 2:26am
David Schwartz (mail):
Validating the signatures does not require them to be public, as numerous people have already explained in here.
Sure, there are ways of validating the signatures that do not require making them public. But nobody is doing those things and there's no easy way I can make them. On the other hand, if I had a list of signatures, I could randomly select 20 names and verify them.

So in practice, if I want a validation of those signatures, the only way I can get it is for the signatures to be made public.

I suppose it's possible I'm missing the post you are referring to. How can I validate the signatures or make someone else validate them without the signatures being public?
8.1.2009 7:26am
No law:
I have far less objection to a short-term injunction, in this circumstance, than to a publication prohibition.


If this were a suit against the State of Washington, I might tend to agree with you.

If this were a suit against the State of Washington, then the Eleventh Amendment would put this in a Washington court. And it would be a Washington judge giving an order to the state's administration.

But this is a suit against an individual: Sam Reed, Washington's Secretary of State.

And there are heavy First Amendment concerns.

The federal judge's order seems to work a prior restraint against the person of Sam Reed.
8.1.2009 9:48am
Chimaxx (mail):
Brian Garst:

It is quite clear that the intent in publishing these names is to assist in the intimidation and harassment of the people who signed. It's perfectly reasonable for them to feel, despite being proud of their position, that they shouldn't have to go through that.


!. It's not clear that the intent is "intimidation or harrassment." Part of the reason is to alert those who may have been duped or lied to so they can petition to rescind their signatures.

2. The phrase "reasonable to feel" is a nonsequitor that voids your second sentence. Like all people, those who signed the petition would rather live in a world where they can say anything they like and do anything they wish without ever being questioned or criticized for their words and actions. This is a normal human desire, a feeling, but reason has nothing to do with it. Is it a desire that the courts should uphold? Should people be able to petition the government to take away the rights of other people without being identified, protected by the state from question or criticism?
8.1.2009 3:35pm
Randy R. (mail):
The point of the petition is to take away rights of a minority that most of these people, such as Freedom, despise, and the real purpose is to intimidate and harass gay people.

See? I can generalize too.
8.1.2009 3:44pm
Chimaxx (mail):
I'm trying to imagine my reaction to the publication of the names and addresses of petition-signers to other sorts of petitions.

What if I wanted to sign a petition for a bill that would raise the tax on alcohol to fund addiction treatment centers, and I thought this was an issue worthy enough of consideration that it should come up for a vote, but one of the clients of my firm (or my spouse's firm) was a grocery store or popular liquor chain that sold alcohol.

Would I feel some level of intimidation when asked to sign it?

In fact, I probably would have--even without publication on the Internet, because the liquor industry would have the resources and motivation to go down into that dank basement and identify all the signers.

In fact, I would feel considerably less intimidation if all signers were published on the Internet, because then it would become obvious if the liquor industry was using its resources to go after all the signers and would refrain from doing so.

In fact the "technically public but difficult to access" alternative is probably the worst of all options, since it allows an organization or small number of highly motivated individuals to harass or intimidate without others being able to deduce that that is what they are doing.

If there were a petition to change tax strutures that would have the effect of taxing Catholic Charities, would it be better that the petition signers be private, be officially public but hard to get to (meaning that someone like Bill Donahue might send a bunch of research assistants to gather the information for use by his private organization) or be fully public?

In all cases, I think the old status quo option is by far the worst, and would argue that the best is fully public. In fact, the government itself should publish all verified signatures on all such ballots. This does two things:

* It removes one fear listed above that a person's signature on one particular petition will always and forever be the first hit on a Google search of their name (unless they sign only one petition in their life).

*It moves the ability to use and analyze that data out of the hands of powerful funded interests (whether political parties or lobbyist organizations) who have the motivation and wherewithal to use it and into the hands of everyone with a PC and an inexpensive data analysis program.
8.1.2009 6:03pm
Bob VB (mail):
1) There is no intimidation, this has been done in 4 previous states without such a result, why would it happen here.
2) Washington state court has ruled it is ok to outright lie to get people to sign petitions. There are false statements at the top of every petition, lies were told to people to try and trick them into signing, and there are even reports of them being shown one petition for a different initiative and then slipped R-71 carefully folder so all that was visible was the signature part.
The signers should be on public record so citizens themselves can check to see if their name has somehow appeared on the petitions and for the stated purpose of the group that will put them on line: so you can ask your friends and neighbors whose names appear why it does, figure out if they were tricked, lied to, just want it voted on, or sincerely believe in it.
3) Far more sensitive information is already on line. Every state registered domestic partnership is on line with a 9 digit zip, the donators for and against R-71 are on line with their home addresses. No one is being 'harrassed' or 'intimidated' why would it be happening to mere signers of a petition?
8.2.2009 12:13pm

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