A judge in Washington State ruled that 138,500 residents who signed a petition protesting a recent move to give gay couples the same rights as married couples will not have their names released on the internet as requested by a pro-gay lobbying group.
The group, Whosigned.org, sought to release the signatures to “make this public record signature information accessible and searchable on the internet,” and to “provide Washington State Voters with a way of reporting when their signature has been recorded either fraudulently or in error.”
But James Bopp, Jr. the attorney for the plaintiffs that sought the injunction against Whosigned.org, says the group’s motives weren’t nearly so well-meaning.
“Their primary reason [for requesting the names] was to have people go confront them,” said Bopp. “The part about whether or not [the names] are legitimate – that’s the job of the Secretary of State, that’s not the job of private organizations.” Bopp said that requesting the names to make sure they were valid was simply “smokescreen,” and said the true motives for Whosigned.org was intimidation and harassment.
According to Washington law, the Secretary of State is responsible for ensuring the validity of petition signatures. Whosigned.org focused specifically on trying to release the names of the signers of this petition because “fairness, equality and freedom from discrimination are core values of our state.” They did not address the issue of whether or not it was the Secretary of State’s job to check the names of petition signers.
“At a time when many states are moving from Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions to providing Civil Marriage equality to their citizens, Washington state is still struggling with whether and how they will treat all couples and families equally,” reads their website.
The injunction against the group is temporary, meaning that the judge will re-examine whether or not the names should be released again on September 3. Bopp feels good about the chances of re-instating the petition.
“We’re certainly encouraged by the developments so far,” he said. “The move today has established our right to prevent disclosure of these names.
The Washington legislature enacted what is commonly called the “everything but marriage” law, which is what the group who assembled the petition, Protect Marriage Washington, sought to overturn. If the signatures are deemed valid and the petition is accepted, the measure will be put on the ballot and a majority of Washington residents will have to sign on before the law is finalized.
In a release, Larry Stickney, Campaign Manager for Protect Marriage Washington, said that he was harassed while collecting signatures for the petition.
“No petition signer should have to endure the threats and harassment I endured,” he said. “Obviously we are pleased with the Court’s ruling today and are hopeful that the Court will enter a more permanent injunction.”