In an effort to prevent traditional marriage supporters from being targeted and harassed, lawyers in Washington state have filed a brief with the Supreme Court to keep the personal information of over 138,000 people private. Arguments will be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28.
Protect Marriage Washington filed the brief in the case of Doe #1 v. Reed after the Washington Secretary of State, Sam Reed, sought to release the names, addresses and other information of thousands of individuals who signed a referendum petition in the state opposing same-sex “marriage.”
James Bopp Jr., lead counsel for Protect Marriage Washington, said that traditional marriage supporters whose names were publicized have endured death threats, physical violence and property damage in the state of Washington and across the county. He also asserted that the Washington Secretary of State plans to release the names to groups who have stated their intent to post the information on the internet, aiding those who wish to harass petitioners.
The groups WhoSigned.org and KnowThyNeighbor.org announced last June that they intend to post the names of petition supporters online. The groups explained that they expect individuals to contact the signers for what could be uncomfortable talks about gay “marriage.”
“The First Amendment allows individuals to engage in political speech without being forced to reveal their identities,” Bopp said on Tuesday. “When public disclosure laws like those in Washington force people to reveal themselves, individuals cannot speak without worrying about threats to themselves, their families, or their jobs.”
“The State of Washington should not be allowed to encourage this violence and intimidation by requiring citizens engaging in political speech to identify themselves,” he added.
In Sept. of 2009, a district court issued an order preventing the release of petitioner identities. However, on October 15 of that year, the Ninth Circuit issued a single page order allowing the release of the names. Within the week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an emergency order preventing the release of identities until the appeal is decided.
Doe #1 v. Reed will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28, 2010.