About two weeks ago, I wrote about how signers of Washington state’s Referendum 71 (which would give voters the chance to repeal marriage-like benefits for same-sex domestic partners) were seeking to have their names held secret. I held that it was fundamentally wrong to hide the names of people trying to affect public change.
It seems the state of Washington agrees:
The names and addresses of donors to Referendum 71 will not be exempt from public disclosure, the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission decided today.
The group had asked the state to redact and seal the names, addresses and occupations of donors, citing threats of violence against supporters and churches.
Doesn’t that just sound cowardly? I’m not happy that there are threats of violence, but if you’re going to go to so much trouble for something you believe in, then be ready when people are really upset with what you’re standing for. You don’t get to cower down and still have it your way.
The commission said Protect Marriage Washington had not proved that disclosure of donors’ names would result in “manifestly unreasonable hardship” to contributors.
While Protect Marriage Washington did provide the commission with some threatening e-mails and blog postings, it “provided no evidence from or about donors that have demonstrated that they have received threats of violence against their lives or property,” or that they were being targeted for boycotts, PDC assistant director Doug Ellis said during the hearing.
In other words, there was no legitimate threat, just jumpy parishioners.
I’m not sure that the threat of boycott is something they deserve to be protected from, so I don’t know exactly why that was included. If anyone out there knows what would be different if there were a significant threat for boycott how this would have been different, please let me know. (Maybe John Mackey of Whole Foods has some ideas?)
One of the things I really respect is when groups make a good decision and also make a point of explaining why it was a good decision. For example, the Iowa Supreme Court did a great job of that in the same-sex marriage decision. So, too, did the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission:
Moreover, the commission decided, removing the names would thwart the purpose of the public disclosure law: To avoid secrecy in campaigns.
Ummm… I know you’re scared to stand up for inequality and all, but we don’t do this because we don’t do this.
The signatures are expected to be tallied by Tuesday. The numbers are close, and Pam’s House Blend is keeping up with the totals.
Even if Referendum 71 makes it to the ballot, at least it will be because real people that we can identify signed their names to it.