Right To Secretly Create Legal Discrimination Preserved (Ref. 71)

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First, people got to hide.

Then, they were reminded it was against the law.

Now, apparently, a judge still isn’t so sure:

A federal judge has continued to keep private the names and addresses of those who signed Referendum 71, saying they likely are protected under the First Amendment and that the state failed to prove a compelling public interest in their release.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma granted a preliminary injunction today, blocking the state from making the petitions public.

It’s not compelling that a group of people are trying to repeal a law that grants rights, but they can’t know who the people are who are trying to change it? Not only would that make it harder to campaign against them, but it also seems like it might disrupt the legitimacy of government. The first step to tyranny is when the government says, “We don’t have to tell you who is trying to take your rights away; just trust us, they’re succeeding.”

But Protect Marriage argued that the law “chills free speech … particularly when it is reasonably probable that those exercising their First Amendment rights would be subjected to threats and harassment.”

Some gay-rights activists — with groups knowthyneighbor.org and whosigned.org — have said they would post and make searchable online the names and addresses of all who signed R-71 petitions.

Stephen Pidgeon, attorney with Protect Marriage, said: “We think this is a good decision. It protects Washington voters’ right to speak freely even in impassioned debate.”

Let’s make two things clear. First, trying to take rights away is both threatening and harassing. It’s a group of people saying, “We don’t like, we don’t respect you, we think you’re less than, and we’re going to decide for you what you can and cannot do in our country.” It’s funny how Protect Marriage has no problem taking away rights that aren’t even equal yet (domestic partnership marriage-like benefits), but insists on special rights for its signatories.

Second… impassioned debate? IMPASSIONED DEBATE? A debate is between two or more people. You stand on a stage in front of an audience where everybody can see everybody involved. Debate is not between shadows. You can’t debate if you don’t show up. If you don’t show up, you concede. You don’t get to phone it in with a voice encoder while you hide backstage.

The Washington Secretary of State Office gets this:

But Brian Zylstra, spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed, said the judge’s decision “is a step away from open government.”

“When people sign a referendum or initiative petition, they are trying to change state law,” he said. “We believe that changing state law should be open to public view.”

Unfortunately, this judge doesn’t want his buddies who are trying to legislate discrimination to have to stand up for themselves. That would be so unfair!

Still, in issuing the preliminary injunction, Settle said Protect Marriage has shown it likely would prevail.

Settle said Protect Marriage has established that it’s likely that signing a referendum petition is protected free speech, which includes the right to speak anonymously.

He said he was “not persuaded that waiver of one’s fundamental right to anonymous political speech is a prerequisite for participation in Washington’s referendum process.”

So let me get this straight, Your Honor… If every single one of those voters had signed just “John Doe” or “Jane Doe,” that would have been okay? Because that would be anonymous political speech.

NO. They signed their names. They knew before they signed that their names would be disclosed. If they don’t want their names revealed, then they either shouldn’t have signed, or they can go ahead and rescind the referendum. If Washington voters want to repeal rights, then we get to know who these Washington voters are.

Furthermore, in light of the state’s own verification process, Settle said he wasn’t convinced that release of the names is necessary as “an important check on the integrity of the referendum election process.”

Indeed, Settle said that Protect Marriage is likely to succeed in its claim that the public-records act is unconstitutional as applied to the disclosure of referendum petitions.

I usually don’t throw around words like this because I don’t want to sound like a FOX News blowhard, but are Settle and Protect Marriage fascists? A fascist wants one dictator to have all power, right? And Settle feels that a group like Protect Marriage doesn’t have to consist of real people, but can speak on their behalf with the weight of all of their voices… and that open democracy isn’t necessary to protect the integrity of determining the laws of the land… and trying to keep things open and make people speak for themselves in legally-binding matters is unconstitutional… and that the opinion of the ruling class determines the rights of minorities… and they should be totally protected from any sort of criticism or resistance… isn’t that fascism? Like, not as some ugly insult, but quite literally?

Brian Murphy, who is prepared to post the names of signers on his searchable Web site, whosigned.org, called it “shocking that Protect Marriage Washington is attacking gay and lesbian couples and their families and then somehow claiming the right to secrecy and victim status for themselves.”

Thank goodness for religious privilege. Those nice Christian people get to hide out while they promote inequality throughout the land.

Oh yeah, and another gay bar was ruthlessly raided last night, this time in Atlanta.

Yeah, we’ve made SO much progress for homosexuals in this country. Too bad the same harassment and repeals of rights make 2009 look just like 1969.

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There are 11 Comments to "Right To Secretly Create Legal Discrimination Preserved (Ref. 71)"

  • Rex says:

    I read with great interest your post about anonymous criticism being equal to cowardice. I thought that it was well reasoned and well articulated. It has some nice parallels to this post.

    I haven’t always been comfortable publicly applying the label “atheist” to myself, even though it is wholly appropriate for me. In fact, in certain environments, sometimes I am still not 100% comfortable with it because of the undeserved negative stigma that that word carries.

    However, as I have become more and more bold about using that term when describing myself, I have found that it is very empowering and liberating to get it out in the open, and to be able to publicly state how and why I feel the way I do about a myriad of public discussion topics. I feel like I am being true to myself and honoring who I am and what I stand for.

    I am not afraid to be called an atheist, and I am not afraid to stand and be counted when I want my opinion to be heard, and that self respect is something that all of these anonymous cowards will never have.

  • ZackFord says:

    Right on! Power to you, my friend!

    The very reason that atheists and LGBTs have made progress is by standing up for ourselves and shedding the closet that only “protects” us from truly being happy and honest with ourselves.

  • Let’s make two things clear. First, trying to take rights away is both threatening and harassing. It’s a group of people saying, “We don’t like, we don’t respect you, we think you’re less than, and we’re going to decide for you what you can and cannot do in our country.” – BINGO!!

    Zack, I’ve been dissed and dismissed for my anger/rage, etc. but the fact is that I am turning 44 this Sunday and I’ve been disabled since I was 39, due to a set of horrific events that were not only possible but guaranteed when a person doesn’t have equal protection in a domestic partner relationship.

    YES – I not only “feel” threatened by REF-71, I’ve been profoundly hurt already, and this governmental psychological warfare is a trigger for my P.T.S.D. Yet I’m supposed to “play by the rules”. Right.

  • […] Zack responds, “Let’s make two things clear. First, trying to take rights away is both threatening and harassing. It’s a group of people saying, ‘We don’t like, we don’t respect you, we think you’re less than, and we’re going to decide for you what you can and cannot do in our country.’ ” – Zack’s entire post is here. […]

  • Will says:

    I’m not sure. Obviously these tools are in no danger – but what about activists who are? Consider a petition FOR marriage rights in some extremely homophobic region – shouldn’t people be able to sign that petition without fear of being harassed or even attacked?

    Maybe the problem is just the default setting for privacy in the petitions. Perhaps it should start secret, but release requests are automatic unless the petitioner can demonstrate an actual risk to the petitionees. That makes more sense than putting the onus on the open-records advocate to demonstrate a need to see the records; it’s both more transparent and more safe.

  • ZackFord says:

    When it’s the other way around, a lot of things are different in ways that almost make it moot.

    First, a lot of the people who would sign for equality (as opposed to signing for inequality, like Protect Marriage), are perhaps already being harassed.

    Second, I think people who are attempting to stand for equality have a lot more courage and aren’t afraid to speak out on behalf of that equality.

    Lastly, if those people were hunted down and harassed, it would be more akin to a witchhunt. You might even hear the word “lynch.” The groups mentioned in the article who are trying to reveal the signatories want to raise awareness of who the oppressors are. These are people who might continue to contribute to oppression and would be good targets for campaigning and educating. It’s important to continue to look forward because there are a lot of hurdles before full equality is achieved. It’s important to know who is holding us back.

    Keep in mind that this isn’t just a petition. These signatures are a fulfillment of the law to put a law up to vote. I probably wouldn’t care as much if it was just “Look how many people disagree!” These people contributed to the process of state legislation. When one group of people is trying to determine how another group of people can live, there’s no room for secrecy.

  • Will says:

    “Second, I think people who are attempting to stand for equality have a lot more courage and aren’t afraid to speak out on behalf of that equality.”

    And if they *are*? Should the threat of actual mob violence be allowed to silence them?

    That’s why I’m saying that the signatures should normally be public, BUT the law needs an exception for cases where the petition organizers can demonstrate a real threat to petitioners.

  • ZackFord says:

    Where is that line drawn? Who determines the precedent? What does it say that the case where such a precedent might be set is a case where it would be used to defend oppressors?

    I don’t think there is room for that exception.

  • Perhaps we should NEVER be voting to hurt families, because that is PRECISELY what these amendments and propositions do.

    Perhaps the anti-gays, anti-elderly, anti-equality folks are afraid of a backlash because they know what they are doing is hateful, harmful, and brings suffering to innocent people.

    Perhaps violence will be the ONLY to wake people up to this very UN-American trend. STONEWALL was an act of violence, and it did some good, so please spare me any pious, anti-violence speeches.

  • Can I just link to what I wrote? If you do mind, then I can just copy and paste…

    http://www.infodriveway.net/2009/09/right-to-secretly-create-legal.html

  • ZackFord says:

    Not a problem! I’m honored to be linked to!

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