District judge rules that R-71 petitions be kept secret for now

TACOMA — Signatures supporting a referendum calling for a public vote on the state's expanded domestic partnership law will be kept secret for now.

On Wednesday, Aug. 11, U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled that Washington state will continue to shield the names of 138,000 petition signatures in favor of Referendum 71 while a federal judge hears new arguments on whether signed referendums in general can be kept anonymous.

Last September, Settle approved a request by members of Protect Marriage Washington, headed by Larry Stickney of Arlington and represented by conservative legal activist James Bopp Jr., to ban the release of Referendum 71 petitions.

Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned Protect Marriage's request.

Bopp then persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.

On June 24, the high court rule 8-1 that in general the disclosure of petitions does not violate the Constitution, but added that Protect Marriage Washington could "press the narrower challenge" of protecting the names of Referendum 71 petition signers in lower courts.

Challengers of the U.S. Supreme Court decision are currently mounting a federal court case to keep the signatures secret forever.

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