.- The U.S. Supreme Court has said it will hear a case concerning whether the Washington Secretary of State may release the names and addresses of the more than 138,000 people who signed a pro-marriage petition in the state. The case could affect attempts to organize protest and intimidation on the internet. Protect Marriage Washington led the state initiative Referendum 71, which failed to pass in the 2009 election. It would have preserved the unique place of marriage by rescinding the state legislature’s expansion of homosexual domestic partnership benefits.
Proponents of Ref. 71 have said that the availability of personal information on the internet has led to the “harassment and intimidation” of those who support traditional marriage. A press release said supporters have been subject to death threats, physical violence, and property damage because of laws requiring the publication of the information on the internet.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case that seeks to protect the rights of citizens who support a traditional definition of marriage to speak freely and without fear,” said the lead counsel for Protect Marriage, James Bopp, Jr. of the Indiana law firm Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom.
“No citizen should ever worry that they will be threatened or injured because they have exercised their right to engage in the political process.”
Bopp argued that the First Amendment protects citizens from being required to disclose their identity when they are engaged in political speech. He noted that the Supreme Court stayed the release of the names in 2009, saying this indicated the high court recognizes the importance of the case.