On Thursday a U.S. District Court judge issued a temporary order preventing the release of the names of Washington state citizens who signed a petition in support of a marriage defense referendum. Supporters of the referendum feared the information would be used to intimidate and retaliate against signers.
The Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed argued that the Washington Public Records Act required the release of the names. Advocates of releasing the names included several groups who wished to place the information on the internet.
Referendum backer Protect Marriage Washington and other plaintiffs argued against the release of the names, citing instances where supporters of marriage have had their property destroyed and have received harassing phone calls and even death threats.
“This situation in Washington is part of a larger, concerted campaign of harassment and intimidation of supporters of traditional marriage by the gay rights lobby,” reported a press release from the law firm Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom, which represented the plaintiffs. “The campaign has involved gaining access to the names of pro-marriage supporters, posting their names and addresses on the Internet, and inviting people to contact them.
“This has triggered hundreds of cases of harassment, vandalism and threats of violence directed at marriage supporters throughout the nation. Such personal attacks occurred in large numbers after the adoption of Proposition 8 in California last November.”
Proposition 8 restored the legal definition of marriage in California to be a union between a man and a woman.
James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said the decision was a “welcome step” towards protecting citizens who want to participate in the democratic process.
“No one should have to suffer vandalism and death threats just because they support government protection of traditional marriage. Keeping the petition signatures confidential will protect these people from the harassment and intimidation that has now so frequently characterized the response of the gay rights lobby.”
The judicial order preventing the release of petition signers’ names will remain in effect until the court makes a permanent ruling.